HL Deb 02 June 1992 vol 537 cc840-8

4.21 p.m.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

"As honourable Members will know, the United Nations Security Council decided on 30th May to impose sanctions on Serbia and Montenegro. The resolution contains one of the most comprehensive series of measures ever adopted by the UN. They include a ban on air links, a trade and oil embargo, a freeze on assets, a ban on official sporting contacts and an agreement to reduce the level of staff at diplomatic missions of the self—proclaimed Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The ban on arms sales adopted last year remains in force.

"This and other elements of the embargo will be monitored by the Security Council Committee established by one of the earlier resolutions on Yugoslavia. We shall play a full part in the work of the committee. We are also taking domestic steps to implement the sanctions in the UK and dependent territories. Interim measures have been taken by the DTI and the Treasury, and Orders in Council will be put to the Privy Council on 4th June. The Yugoslav ambassador has been asked to leave.

"The vote on this resolution reflects almost total unanimity among the international community. The world has been shocked by the persistent shellings and killings, and particularly by the carnage in Sarajevo. The resolution reflects condemnation of Serbia's brutal and expansionist policies under its present leadership. President Milosevic has refused to rein in the Serbs in Bosnia and has actively supported them through supplies of men and equipment. Under the pretext of withdrawal he has transferred large parts of the federal army to local command in Bosnia.

"These warlords are using terror as a political weapon to create ethnically pure Serbian areas which will be attached to Serbia itself. There was never any justification for Serbia's aggressive policy. Before the fighting began there was no threat to the welfare of the large Serbian community in Bosnia—Herzegovina from either Croats or Moslems. Croatia too has profited from the situation by infiltrating men and equipment into Croatian—inhabited areas of Herzegovina.

"We hope that the mandatory provisions of UNSCR 757 will convince the Belgrade leadership that they must abandon their present policies. We do not wish to penalise the Serbian people or to destroy the Serbian economy. But we must bring home to Mr. Milosevic and his supporters that the international community cannot tolerate his present policy.

"The immediate requirement is for a complete cessation of hostilities. Next we must establish conditions in which the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees can pursue their humanitarian tasks. They have our full support: we have so far given a total of £9.68 million to their appeals. The Belgrade authorities must also take steps to immobilise and disarm the irregular units which have been responsible for so much of the mayhem. This will allow the displaced persons who have now fled to all the five remaining republics to return to their homes. This in turn must lead to a political solution on the lines already prepared by, and in principle agreed through, the good offices of Lord Carrington. I am in close touch with my European and US colleagues as we work for these objectives."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.25 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement. The running conflict in what was formerly Yugoslavia has caused acute anxiety and sorrow to all of us over the past few months. We have seen innocent people—I believe 2,300 of them—killed and many thousands more wounded. Great historic cities like Sarajevo and Dubrovnik have been shelled and devastated.

We have had to learn once again that the loosening of the bonds of cruel repression do not always or immediately lead to happiness, freedom and peace. Extreme nationalism and ethnic and religious differences which have been smouldering under the surface in the south east of Europe have erupted into hatred and violence.

We have supported the initiatives of the European Community and the patient efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, to achieve a ceasefire and talks which might lead to a political solution. But we have seen the noble Lord disappointed time and time again. We have sympathised with him and are grateful to him.

A large section of the Serbian people have protested about the policies of their government but the evidence points to the Serbian authorities, which have control of the federal army, as the chief culprits. Whatever may be the quarrels and memories of the past, in Slovenia, in Croatia and now in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the refusal of Serbia to support a ceasefire or to influence Serbian guerrillas appears clearly to lie at the heart of the problem. For those reasons we fully support the comprehensive Security Council resolution of 30th May and hope it will persuade the Serbian Government to see sense.

Can the noble Baroness inform us whether other countries, notably Romania and Greece, will conform with the resolution and with the oil embargo in particular? Does she believe that the sanctions resolution will have the desired effect and bring the conflict to an end? If not, do Her Majesty's Government contemplate the possibility of United Nations military action such as that which took place in the Gulf? Finally, what organisation do Her Majesty's Government believe will need to be set up to protect the new independent states and to secure stability in the region once the present conflict has reached an end? Does the noble Baroness agree that such an organisation would need to be under the aegis of the United Nations and act with its authority?

My final point is that we all note and welcome the reference in the Statement to the unhappy refugees and displaced persons in that unfortunate area.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

My Lords, I join with the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, in thanking the noble Baroness for making the Statement, and indeed in congratulating the Government on taking the degree of lead that they have with their colleagues in the European Community to move forward in this matter of applying sanctions in the tragic situation in Yugoslavia. For our part, we strongly support the efforts by the United Nations and the European Community now brought together to impose these sanctions and to try to mitigate the terrible human tragedy taking place in Yugoslavia.

We feel pitifully impotent in finding ways and means of effective peace enforcement in the tragic situation that exists. Like the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, I shall be interested to hear the response from the Government to his questions regarding a possible future military role. For example, a naval presence in the Adriatic may have some kind of calming influence. However, for the immediate future it is most important that the leaders in Belgrade are absolutely clear that world opinion is unanimously against them and that there is no way out of the course that they are pursuing in proceeding to arm the Serbian warlords, as the noble Baroness described them.

Apart from trying to bring about peace, we join from these Benches in paying tribute to the painstaking work of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. There will be a major humanitarian operation needed in Yugoslavia where one has probably the greatest movement of refugees since the Second World War.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos and Lord Thomson of Monifieth, for their comments. This is a time of great difficulty in dealing with the subject, as I am sure your Lordships' House perceives. Perhaps I can seek to answer the specific questions of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn.

Both Romania and Greece are members of the UN. We would therefore expect them to conform totally to its resolutions. It is of course the oil tanker procession that goes up from Greece which is the most critical in feeding the Serbian oil reserves, which must halt. To date our information is that it has halted. However, given that some 24 per cent. of the oil used in Yugoslavia comes from China—the majority of that using the route through Greece—it is critical that Greece and Romania, which are the main suppliers, conform to the resolution. I sincerely hope that they will. At the present time we have no evidence to the contrary, but we shall watch the situation.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, asked, as did the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, whether or not I believe that the sanctions are sufficient to bring the conflict to an end. I am sure that I speak not only for this House but also for millions of people in this country and the wider world in saying that with such a draconian series of sanctions, we firmly believe that they can be effective but it may take time. It is during that time that the refugees and displaced persons of whom the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, spoke will be most in need. That is why great efforts are being made to try to provide humanitarian help through the airport of Sarajevo. We have not yet succeeded but we shall continue to try to make that happen with the help of the United Nations, the ICRC and all other bodies.

Should those sanctions not work, then the United Nations Security Council will sit again and consider what further action should be taken. It is far too early to say, and we must give the sanctions a chance to work. The monitoring must be detailed and exact on every aspect.

With regard to the future, Resolution 757 speaks of peace and security in the whole area. That means that the new independent states should be peaceful and protected. I believe that the monitors, to whom we should pay tribute, and the peace-keeping force will seek to bring that about. It may need to be strengthened in time. We are contributing 250 personnel and three military observers to the protection forces and we expect to receive reports back within a week of deployment regarding what more needs to be done. We are conscious of the tremendous job that is being done by the UN protection force. We wish them well in bringing peace to the people in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the rest of the area who have suffered for so long.

4.35 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for repeating that important Statement. Is she aware that opinion in this country will be thankful that, faced with this awful situation, the Security Council of the United Nations has been prepared to take action, and that it is action which a few years ago it may have hesitated to take? It is therefore encouraging that in this situation the Security Council is prepared to act.

Is my noble friend aware also that opinion in this country will unanimously feel that Her Majesty's Government were right to play their part and support the action? The only other factor I wish to leave in the mind of my noble friend is that those of us who know the lovely city of Dubrovnik are horrified at the outrages being performed on it.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his comments regarding the Government's action. I too am relieved that the Security Council has been prepared to take this draconian action—indeed, with no votes against although there were two abstentions. The damage to the historic places of the former Yugoslavia caused by the brutality and severity of the attacks is much to be regretted. Many churches throughout that once lovely country will never and can never be the same again. However, the action now being taken is taken with wide support of the majority of the members of the non-aligned movement who, after all, form around half the membership of the United Nations. It was important that we had their support. They had to be convinced, which is why it has taken a little longer I would ideally have wished. However, we needed that full-scale implementation; partial implementation would have done no good to the UN, the EC or the poor people of the area of Bosnia-Herzegovina and wider afield.

Lord Marsh

My Lords, should sanctions not work —and history is not encouraging in that area—or work too slowly, is there not a real danger that the conflict could spread quite quickly throughout the Balkans in a serious way? Is it realistic therefore to rule out direct military intervention in the foreseeable future?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, paints a picture of extreme pessimism. We are only three days into the implementation of the Security Council resolution. While I would never rule out having to take further action of some kind, the complete implementation of the Security Council resolutions is what matters. We must ensure that that is done with every approach to the former Yugoslavia to ensure that the sanctions work. They can be made to work; they are working in other places although I know that from time to time those against whom they are supposed to work try to give a different impression. I believe that the whole world is determined that the sanctions should work in Bosnia-Herzegovina and against the Serbian brutality.

Lord Pym

My Lords, does not my noble friend agree that my noble friend Lord Carrington has done everything humanly possible—and perhaps more even than that—to try to bring some measure of peace and stability to the region? Is it not the case that the United Nations decision provides a substantial accretion of capability for his finding a peaceful solution? Does my noble friend agree that not only this Parliament and this country but all our colleagues in the European Community also must give our noble friend Lord Carrington the fullest support that he undoubtedly needs if he is to achieve success?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Pym for his comments about our noble friend Lord Carrington. The whole House realises the incredible efforts that our noble friend Lord Carrington has been making not only for the peace conference, which is the important avenue for a political solution to the crisis, but also in bringing to bear his knowledge of the whole area in all the other forums. When my noble friend Lord Carrington was here recently, he said that what was going on in that country was almost incredible and that it was essential that all parties continue to take part in the talks on Bosnia that are being chaired by ambassador Cutileiro. We shall certainly ensure not only that we thank our noble friend Lord Carrington, but also that we give him all possible support for the tremendous job that he is seeking to do to bring peace to those people.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, perhaps I may put one or two points to my noble friend, having been in and out of Yugoslavia for 60 years. First, does she agree that everyone who knows and loves Yugoslavia will relish the distinction that she has made between the Milosevic regime and the Serbian people? Secondly, does she not agree that an important new factor in the situation was last week's declaration by the Serbian Orthodox Church which was highly critical of that regime, possibly for the first time? Is there now any hard evidence that the Yugoslav national army is still supplying arms, materials or information to the irregulars in Bosnia? Is it the case that the shelling of Dubrovnik in the past few days could have been carried out by the Yugoslav navy only under the authority of Belgrade? May I make one further point? I am sure that those who know Yugoslavia and its ambassador in London will be glad that he has only been asked to leave and has not in any way been expelled. Perhaps we on the Back Benches may express the hope that his serious endeavours and great good humour in seeking to do an important but almost impossible job while he has been in London will be remembered. We hope one day to welcome him back.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for those comments. It is important to realise that hundreds of thousands of innocent Serbian people wish only for peace but are caught up in the terrible onslaught that is being vested against the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina. I, too, believe that the statement by the Orthodox Church was a turning point among the people. My noble friend is exactly right to point to that as perhaps being a hopeful sign for the future. I cannot give my noble friend exact answers to his comments about the supply of armaments, material or information to the irregulars in Bosnia, but on commonsense grounds it seems impossible to me for the irregulars in Bosnia-Herzegovina to continue as they have and for the attacks from the sea on the lovely old city of Dubrovnik to have been made without complicity from the Belgrade authorities.

Lord Monkswell

My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the Minister for her Statement. I am sure that I express the frustration that is felt on all sides of the House about the situation there and our apparent inability to contain what has been a horrific development over the past two or three years—not just over the past few months. Have any lessons been learned about the development of the difficulties in Yugoslavia? I refer especially to the rise in unemployment in that sorry country. The last figure that I heard was 18 per cent. I refer also to the interference by foreign powers in the sovereign affairs of the nation of Yugoslavia. In that respect I mention particularly Germany's involvement in encouragement of the cession of Croatia from the state of Yugoslavia.

Does the Minister understand that one of my fears —I am not sure how widely shared it is—is that although we have a horrendous situation in Yugoslavia, it may be comparatively easily containable in terms of action by the United Nations, but that if we envisage the same scenario happening in the former Soviet Union, we are likely to see conflict on an enormously horrific scale, possibly involving nuclear weapons? May I make the plea that the Government should try to learn lessons from the development of the conflict in Yugoslavia so that they can—I hope—persuade their colleagues in all the forums of the United Nations that every effort should be made to prevent such an escalation of the difficulties in the former Soviet Union?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, for his questions. The horrific developments have, indeed, been borne since some long while ago. I would not disagree with him about that, but the speed with which the animosity and the sheer vengeance of one group of people towards another have developed is much more recent. The way in which the Serbians are now attacking Moslems is one of the saddest developments in the whole dreadful story not only of Bosnia-Herzegovina, but of the wider Yugoslavia.

I do not believe that there is a direct lesson to be learned from the rise of unemployment in Yugoslavia. However, the international community must, of course, learn the lessons of the considerable animosity that has been engendered by some outside forces. I believe that the noble Lord is wrong to blame the German encouragement of the independence of Croatia. It has been made quite clear by the Croatians I have met, after the changes in Yugoslavia during the past 10 years, that Croatia would one day bid to become an independent republic. Whether or not there was encouragement from the former foreign minister of Germany for Croatia to become independent all the faster, that move was happening anyway on the ground in Croatia.

The noble Lord is being more of a prophet of doom than is necessary or desirable at present. As the lessening of East-West tension has proceeded, one of the great changes has been the amount of discussion that has taken place about those changes. Only eight days ago I was talking in Lisbon with Ukrainians who do not particularly like their Russian neighbours and with Moldavians who have great fears about their neighbours, but the point was that all the republics of the CIS were present and were talking, even the Azerbaijanis with the Armenians. The same must become true in Yugoslavia. That is why the efforts of our noble friend Lord Carrington for peace-keeping and for a peace conference must be supported at every turn. It makes no sense to do anything but encourage the dialogue and the peace.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, perhaps I, too, may thank my noble friend for her admirable Statement. Does she agree that while Croatia was initially in uproar, Bosnia was very quiet and that that would ideally have been the time for a peace-keeping force to be used, had that been practicable? I make that comment because Bosnia is now in uproar but the Yugoslav provinces of Macedonia and Kosovo are relatively quiet. Does my noble friend agree that this may be the time to think in terms of a peace-keeping force for Kosovo—while there is peace there? Finally, does she agree that if the name of Macedonia seems to be problematic in preventing Greek recognition of what could become the independent state of Macedonia, it might be worth seeing whether some alternative or modified name could be found so that the autonomy of Macedonia as an independent state can be agreed by all sides? I hope that my noble friend will agree that now is the time to address those questions—before uproar breaks out in those two provinces also.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his questions. Perhaps I may deal first with Kosovo. I understand that the Kosovar Albanians' desire for greater independence has been presented to our noble friend Lord Carrington. Discussion is already going on. There is a dialogue with the peace conference. That is a very important aspect of the difficulties which exist in Kosovo. But any lasting solution for Yugoslavia has to incorporate some cast iron minority guarantees for communities such as the Kosovar Albanians. We are very well aware of that, as is our noble friend Lord Carrington.

Turning to the vexed question of Macedonia, the Arbitration Commission, which is attached to my noble friend's peace conference, reported in January that Macedonia met all the criteria necessary for recognition. We understand that the Greek Government have a genuine domestic problem but we believe that a common position may soon be found which will allow recognition. I hope that the European Community may also be able to provide support for President Gligorov's government in Macedonia. The problem, as I am sure my noble friend well appreciates, is that the name could imply an attendant claim on the area. That is what we have to resolve. But once again our noble friend Lord Carrington is already engaged. I think that success there will be entirely due to all the work that he and his conference are doing.

Lord Marlesford

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that there are only two conditions in which one can contemplate military action by the United Nations? The first is that every diplomatic channel has been fully exhausted, which includes the possibility of discussions internally. The second is that the military action could actually work. In the first instance, it is clearly not the case. There is still hope. The Church revolt against some of the Serbian action is an example. In the second instance, the topography of Yugoslavia, as those who know it well are all too aware, makes military intervention from outside almost impossible, as indeed the Germans found during the war. At this stage therefore it is wholly undesirable for us even to contemplate, let alone discuss, the possibility of military action.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I very much agree with my noble friend. It is dangerous to contemplate military action in any form until we have exhausted every diplomatic channel. The Security Council resolution has been passed for some three days. It is being enacted with all speed and with all diligence. We have to be very sure, before we contemplate any military action, that no further diplomatic action is possible. The lesson of many other places around the world is certainly that, unless there is a chance of success, there is no point in sending one's own men into an impossible situation.