HL Deb 15 May 1981 vol 420 cc685-6
Lord Brockway

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will initiate discussion by the Security Council of the United Nations of the situation in El Salvador in view of the danger to peace in Central America following the rejection of mediation proposed by the Socialist International supported by neighbouring nations and accepted by the opposition.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, while the Government consider that a political solution to the conflict in El Salvador is desirable, the precise means of achieving this is a matter for the parties in El Salvador to agree. Her Majesty's Government do not consider it would be appropriate to raise the subject in the United Nations Security Council.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, is it not the case that in addition to the 22,000 who have been killed in El Salvador, there is now a danger that the Governments in Central America, with the USA, will be lining up on the two sides? Are there not already military clashes between Honduras and Nicaragua potentially dangerous for the future?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the position on the border with Honduras is one which causes a little concern, but the major problem is undoubtedly the conflict within the country itself. This really is a matter for Salvadorians themselves to solve and I could not agree that we should intervene as the noble Lord suggests.

Baroness Gaitskell

My Lords, in supporting my noble friend, which, incidentally, I do not often do, may I ask the Minister seriously to reconsider his Question? I have long experience of the United Nations, having been there seven times over a period of 13 years. Would it not be a good thing that there should be a hostile, condemnatory statement from the United Nations about this terrible situation within El Salvador?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am not quite sure what the noble Baroness means by a "hostile, condemnatory statement". We all condemn the violence that is taking place in that country. I am wondering whether another loud declaration of that kind would actually get the matter any further forward. What is needed is some form of mediation within the country. We hope that that is the way in which the matter will in due course be resolved.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, has this dangerous situation been discussed or raised in the Council of Foreign Ministers of the EEC? If so, might it not be desirable to have a common European policy, whichever it may be, on the matter?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, all the European Community members have expressed concern at the continuing violence and a wish that a solution be reached through political means. I do not think that the European Community is best placed to play an active role, and it has certainly not been requested to do so by any of the parties.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, the Minister said that this is a matter for the parties in El Salvador. Is he aware that the whole of the opposition there, the Catholic Church, many Christian Democrats, the Democratic Socialists, as well as the resistance movements, are all in favour of this mediation? May I ask him whether he is aware that the President of Mexico has just said that one small error by the United States military advisers in El Salvador could produce war on an international level and that Mexico would defend the Nicaraguan cause as though it were their own? Is that not evidence of the explosive situation?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I have not sought to belittle or minimise the danger of the situation in El Salvador, but I would venture to suggest that the sort of intervention that the noble Lord is suggesting would not contribute to a solution.

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