HL Deb 19 April 1993 vol 544 cc1260-73

3.46 p.m.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, with the leave of the House I should like to repeat a Statement which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The Statement is as follows: "I should like to make a Statement on Bosnia. There is today a fragile ceasefire in Srebrenica. One hundred and thirty-three military and civilian wounded were evacuated yesterday by helicopter to Tuzla. It is hoped to bring out a further 200 today. British Sea King helicopters are taking part in this airlift. Canadian troops have been deployed into Srebrenica to monitor the ceasefire arrangements. Their involvement is based on Security Council Resolution 819 adopted last Friday which demanded that Srebrenica and its environs should be treated as a safe area.

"There has been heavy fighting between Moslem and Croat forces in central Bosnia. Some of our troops, the Cheshires, are stationed in the area. They are doing what they can to mediate. This fighting has brought a temporary halt to the flow of relief convoys.

"Our troops on the ground, and the RAF in supplying Sarajevo, have done superb work. Our troops have so far escorted 450 convoys carrying 34,000 tonnes of aid. Most of the convoys in central Bosnia are maintained and driven by over 100 ODA employees. In over 400 flights the RAF has carried 6,000 tonnes. The Government have contributed £92 million to the international relief agencies, bilaterally and through the EC.

"It was predicted last autumn that almost half a million Bosnians would die of starvation during the winter. Most of them are still alive, thanks in large part to the relief effort. We need to continue that effort as long as possible. People can starve in spring and summer as well as winter. But keeping people alive does not by itself solve the problem. In the end a lasting solution to the Bosnian conflict can only be achieved by a political settlement. That is why we have given our full support to the efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, and Mr. Vance. Their proposals have been agreed by the Moslems and Croats. The Serbs have prevaricated, made unacceptable territorial demands and meanwhile continued their aggression with the hideous suffering which we have seen. The government in Belgrade have not used their considerable influence to put a stop to this behaviour.

"We must therefore intensify pressure on the Serbs. RAF Tornados have now been called upon to join in enforcement of the no-fly zone. On Saturday we voted for the immediate adoption of Security Council Resolution 820 imposing further and intense sanctions unless the Serbs stop their attacks and agree to a political settlement by 26th April.

"These new sanctions are based on a package prepared by the European Community at our instigation over two months ago. Their passage in the Security Council was not easy. The Russians, who of course hold a veto, wanted to allow the Serbs more time. But in view of the continuing Serb aggression around Srebrenica we considered that action had to be taken immediately as a clear signal of the international Community's resolve. We are looking to turn sanctions into a blockade. We shall sustain it and, if the Serbs remain intransigent, it will bring Serbia to economic disaster.

"The new sanctions are wide in scope and effectively close down Serbia's border. We are using the days leading up to their introduction to ensure the tightest possible enforcement. It is enforcement which counts—by sea, by river, on land and against financial services.

"In the Adriatic there are already NATO-WEU monitoring forces, including HMS "Cardiff", which have prevented all but three vessels from entering Montenegrin ports since November 1992. The new Security Council resolution provides further powers, notably prohibiting all commercial and maritime traffic from entering the territorial waters of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia except when specifically authorised.

"On the Danube there are plans for deployment of a WEU monitoring flotilla. Together with the CSCE sanctions assistance missions, these should go a long way to curb sanctions breaking. There is a need for effective co-ordination between the riparian states and the international community to ensure that there are no loopholes. We shall pursue this vigorously.

"As for passage of freight over land, the new resolution calls for closure of all freight crossing points with limited exceptions. There are problems with passage of goods across some of the borders with Serbia and Montenegro. More needs to be done so that traffic is physically prevented from moving except at designated points. We shall also need more sanctions assistance monitors to help the customs authorities of the neighbouring states monitor their borders and police the crossing points round the clock.

"We also need to ensure that sanctions against Serbia's financial assets are strictly enforced. That is an obligation on all governments. We must ensure that there are no weak points.

"Serbia is already hard hit by sanctions and vulnerable to tighter sanctions—provided, and it is a big proviso, that they are properly enforced. This is a strenuous task. Many international organisations are involved. I have proposed the appointment of a high-powered co-ordinator to build up this work and when necessary knock heads together.

"Against that background we cannot refuse to look at all ideas, including those which have been considered before but not adopted. The debate on other options is at a similar stage in London as in the capitals of our major partners. It is essential that policy should be agreed by the international community.

"I mention two such options.

"There have been calls for removal of the mandatory UN arms embargo against the Bosnian Government. The House will be aware of the Government's reservations. I do not believe relaxation would in practice be limited to one party. That would be in effect letting the parties fight it out—Serb against Moslem, Moslem against Croat as today in central Bosnia, Croat against Serb. The Government recognise that it would give the Moslems the opportunity to gain better access to the arms they need. There is the danger that it might prolong and extend the conflict and imperil the humanitarian effort.

"There are also advocates of air strikes against selected Serb targets, as a way of putting further pressure on the Serbs to sign the Vance-Owen plan and reduce the risk of attacks on Serb and Moslem enclaves. That discussion is at much the same stage in different capitals. We have to take account of the professional view that such strikes would probably have only limited military value unless supported by troops on the ground, given the nature of the terrain and the conflict. There would be a high risk of civilian casualties. On this as on other options we cannot rule anything out as the situation develops and shall stay in close touch with our allies and partners. But we cannot go down this or any other route without a reasonable judgment that it would do more good than harm. We need to consider not just what sounds satisfying today, but where we might stand in, say, four or five weeks, or four or five months after the first air strike or the first delivery of arms.

"The anger and frustration aroused by these savageries in Eastern Bosnia are entirely justified. Our objectives are to bring the Bosnian Serbs and the Serb Government to abandon the pursuit of their aims by the use of force; to prevent the fighting spreading to Croatia, Kosovo. Macedonia or elsewhere; to provide the wherewithal through the Vance-Owen process for a just political solution; and to relieve the needs of the hungry and the sick.

"The Serbs and Bosnian Serbs should realise that there will be no acceptance and therefore no stability in gains achieved as they have sought to achieve them. Their only hope for a stable let alone a prosperous future lies in changing course and bringing these horrors to an end".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.57 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, we are most grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement. The deteriorating situation in Bosnia is clearly leading to increasing public concern. The latest pictures of injured civilians—that is, men, women and children; but, above all, of children—being brought out of Srebrenica can lead only to the revulsion that anyone in a civilised society must feel at the appalling cruelty that is being inflicted on innocent victims in this terrible war.

The complete unwillingness on the part of the Bosnian-Serb leader Dr. Radovan Karadzic to respond positively to the numerous requests for a cease-fire, to the many attempts to get him to sign the Vance-Owen plan and to desist from the continuing slaughter as he and his army continue to take more and more Moslem territory into Serb control and, indeed, his apparent contempt for the United Nations and its efforts to reach a settlement, all call for a new approach.

The anticipated fall of Srebrenica is clearly a watershed in the war in Bosnia. Can the Minister add to what she has told the House on the latest information about the situation? For example, in relation to the United Nations' efforts to evacuate the wounded from the town, can she indicate what action the UN will take to guarantee the safety and well-being of the town's inhabitants?

I turn now to the wider issues involved. Apart from the planned trip of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, to Belgrade to see Mr. Milosevic, can the Minister say what further steps are being taken to put pressure on the Serbian Government? Has the Russian Government been asked again to bring pressure to bear on Serbia to agree a cease-fire and sign the Vance-Owen peace plan?

While I welcome the imposition of further sanctions and the introduction of a blockade, I believe that it has all come a little too late. Does the Minister accept that it is obvious that the sanctions already in place have not been adequately enforced? Is she really confident that the loopholes will be closed? Indeed, can she assure the House that that will happen and that there will really be "no weak points"? Does the Minister agree that it was a serious mistake to delay the Security Council's discussion on sanctions apparently to allow the Russians to exert pressure on the Serbs, which has not in fact been done? Does she further agree that it was also a mistake to wait for the imposition of further sanctions until after the Russian referendum? Surely that is now a matter of the utmost urgency.

We welcome the initiatives now being taken by NATO and the WEU round the coast of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in preventing all commercial and maritime traffic from entering as well as the proposals to put a WEU flotilla onto the Danube, but will the noble Baroness tell the House a little more about how the flotilla will work? Clearly, sanctions assistance monitors will also be needed. Will the Minister tell the House what the UK Government's contribution will be in cash terms to this task force?

On the subject of sanctions, can the Minister say how the policing of the borders will be undertaken? Again, we welcome proposals for financial sanctions but it is a little unclear what will happen between now and the formal implementation of these sanctions on 26th April. Are the financial assets of the Serb Government to be frozen between now and then? It would also be helpful if the House could be clear on the American position and that of our NATO allies, including the Germans and French. Are they in agreement with the Statement that we have just heard?

While we welcome the enforcement of sanctions and indeed of the no-fly zone, is it not now time to give an ultimatum to the Bosnian Serbs to sign the Vance-Owen peace plan or face punitive air strikes on military targets? No one would wish to take such action lightly, not least because of its implications for the humanitarian relief operation. However, I was at least glad to hear the Minister say this action is no longer ruled out. We welcome the Minister's clear announcement that she rejects the views of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, whose solution is to remove the arms embargo on supplying the Bosnian Moslems. That can only lead to a further escalation and further bloodshed and will reduce rather than improve any hopes of bringing this war to an end.

Finally, I wish to endorse every word in the Statement on the superb work being done by our troops on the ground. Their contribution is one for which we on this side of the House are enormously grateful, but we of course share the Government's view that a political settlement must be found to bring this terrible war to an end.

4.2 p.m.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement made by her right honourable friend in another place. I also associate myself with and repeat the tributes that have been paid from these Benches and elsewhere in the House to the performance of British Forces in the air, on land and at sea and by the drivers of the ODA, who have achieved such remarkable feats of humanitarian aid and who have made it possible for the thousands of people living there to survive the Winter and we hope to survive the Spring and the Autumn. In discussing this matter, we should never forget the crucial importance of humanitarian aid. In discussing the options open to us, we should remember that some of those options put that at risk.

I was grateful to hear the stress the noble Baroness laid on the matter of enforcement in the Statement that we have just heard, and in particular the tightening up of measures to ensure that sanctions that were imposed in the past and sanctions that are about to be imposed are rigorously enforced. I was interested to hear about the Danube flotilla. As everyone knows, oil has been flowing down the Danube these past months and it is high time that it was stopped. Can the noble Baroness tell us when the flotilla will be in action and when therefore that flow of oil will be stopped? Further sanctions are to be welcomed but no one knows more than the present Government that sanctions are slow to operate. No one has been more critical of sanctions in the case of South Africa and in the case of Iraq than the present Government. They have told us again and again that sanctions will not work. Sanctions have some effect but they are extremely slow and we are dealing here with a situation which is near to genocide and in which quick action is desired. We therefore have to examine—perhaps this is the most important part of the Statement—the options open to us in the future for dealing with this critical situation.

I am afraid I cannot agree with the noble Baroness who has just spoken that air strikes are the right way to tackle this matter. I agree with the noble friend of the noble Baroness, Lord Healey, who said on television that air strikes will not in this case deal with the problem we are concerned with. In the first place, air strikes are inaccurate and they are likely to cause civilian casualties. Air strikes are also likely to prevent humanitarian aid from getting through. Therefore I deplore the imposition of air strikes. What one has to have with air strikes are troops on the ground. Air strikes by themselves have never won a battle so far as I am aware. I do not believe it wise or sensible to arm the Moslems. Here I agree with the noble Baroness and with the Government. One of the great dangers confronting us in this situation is that this conflict will spread. There is no quicker way of making it spread than by arming the Moslems. That will result in Russian arms going to the Serbs. That seems to me a policy of grave irresponsibility which will provoke the thing we least want: the spread of this dangerous, cruel and savage conflict.

Having said that, we must consider other options. I have come to the conclusion that the time has come when we should declare what were called in Iraq safe havens. I attended a meeting of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs about two months ago and I heard the noble Lord, Lord Owen, produce convincing arguments why safe havens at that time were undesirable. He said one would give ground which had not been occupied to the Serbs. Anything which was not a safe haven was therefore Serbian. However, it seems to me that the situation since then has changed. The time has come for the Moslem enclaves which remain to be taken under UN protection. Moreover, I believe this can be done without any breach of the rules under Resolution 757, paragraph 17. The UN troops would not attack the Serbs, but they would defend themselves; and that is within the rules. It is within the Urquhart rules of peacekeeping. I believe this can be done and that it might save lives. I urge the Government to consider that course.

It is ironic that the people who describe the European response to this tragic conflict as a failure—of course, they have grounds for doing so—are the very people who are most opposed to the development of a European foreign policy. What this has shown more than anything is that a European foreign policy, as we have it, is inadequate. That is what needs strengthening.

I have one final question to put to the noble Baroness. I am told that the shelling of Srebrenica came from territory in Serbia. Is that the case? If it is, that was an act of aggression, and the description of this conflict as a civil war no longer holds. Do the Government have this information; and, if so, what does it tell them?

4.8 p.m.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I shall seek to respond to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord without repeating matters that we discussed here last Wednesday. However, I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I go over some points yet again. I am grateful to both the noble Baroness and to the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, for many of the comments they have made. The noble Baroness spoke, quite rightly, of the public anxiety as regards the position in Srebrenica, Goradze, Zepa, Tuzla and all the areas which are definitely under great pressure from the Serb forces. There is no exclusive holding of that public anxiety, however. It is not only the Moslems in their enclaves of eastern Bosnia who are under pressure but there are also considerable pressures in Croatia itself as I made clear in the first part of the Statement. There is great tension between the Moslems and the Croatians.

The noble Baroness asked me what further steps were under consideration. I cannot spell out more than I said in the Statement. However, I can assure the noble Baroness that when my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary was in Tokyo last week long discussions were held by him and other members of G7 with Mr. Kozyrev, the Russian foreign minister. Many contacts are taking place non-stop at present.

The noble Baroness suggested that the Serbs might have been held back further if sanctions had been more adequately enforced. I agree with her that it is highly necessary to enforce the sanctions in all areas. However, one of the problems is that Britain simply cannot do it all. It takes an international organisation to do that. We have contributed personnel to the sanctions assistance missions. We have recommended that those missions be considerably strengthened. I mentioned on Wednesday of last week the measures of assistance: the radio network on the lower Danube basin and making sure that there are no weak points. That has to be done internationally.

I do not believe that it was a mistake to delay Security Council Resolution 820. If we had not sought to persuade the Russians last week, they might have been less willing to see the resolution go through at the weekend, as has happened. There was a very sound reason for that action.

The noble Baroness asked what the task force would need in cash terms. That is still being worked out in some detail. This is by no means a cheap operation. It is extremely expensive. When Britain alone is spending £92 million on humanitarian assistance, and although we are the main contributors, one gets the feeling that that is only a small part of the whole. I shall come back to the noble Baroness when we have further indications of how the enforced sanctions regime will work and the likely costs. One cannot be certain what they will be because no one can say how long the situation might continue. Border policing will involve large numbers of people. That is why the sanctions monitoring missions have to be strengthened. We are looking at that and have been doing so for several days. We are in close contact with our United States and other NATO and European allies. So far as we can tell, we are approaching these matters in an almost identical manner.

At present the only way forward is a political settlement. I was glad to hear the noble Baroness say that. We shall do all in our power to ensure that humanitarian assistance is not halted. However, there are situations, as there have been over the past eight months, when we have to halt the humanitarian assistance temporarily for fear of jeopardising its continuation.

The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, paid a tribute—which he knows I endorse—to all those involved in bringing relief to Bosnia. I agree with him very much that stopping the flotillas on the Danube is critical. I gather that as much oil can be carried on one of the barge trains on the Danube as would be supplied by 1,000 oil tankers. That is a critical part of the implementation of sanctions. More steps are being taken to implement them.

I understand the attraction of safe havens, having been very much involved with the safe havens in northern Iraq. I must point out to the noble Lord that this situation is very different. There is also anxiety, which I share, that the creation of safe havens simply aids the terrible ethnic cleansing which has been taking place in the whole of Bosnia. I shall look again at Security Council Resolution 757, but I do not put the same interpretation upon it as the noble Lord suggested this afternoon. We do not know whether the shelling on Srebrenica came from beyond the Serbian-Bosnian border line. If I find further information on that point, I shall let the noble Lord know. It is at least some small comfort that there has been no shelling on Srebrenica since the ceasefire agreement yesterday morning.

In answer to both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, I can tell them that the ceasefire is being protected by the deployment of 150 Canadian troops in Srebrenica. It is hoped to use the air corridor which has been established to evacuate 200 civilians and other injured people today in addition to the 133 Who were evacuated yesterday. The rest of the injured civilians will be evacuated by land to Tuzla. That work is continuing.

We shall do all that we can to safeguard the population of Srebrenica; but we are mindful of the situation facing the populations of many other Moslem enclaves within the Serbian-controlled parts of Bosnia in the east. I can assure your Lordships' House that no stone will be left unturned to do all that is possible to bring relief but above all to try to achieve a political settlement.

4.14 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I associate myself warmly with what both noble Baronesses said about the gallantry and devotion to duty of members of Her Majesty's forces in this difficult situation —and I have in mind particularly the Cheshires and the Royal Air Force. However, can my noble friend be more specific about Her Majesty's Government's intentions with respect to the use of those forces? Is she aware that there is a great body of opinion in this country which is wholly against exposing members of Her Majesty's forces to serious risk of death or injury as a result of their having to perform duties in this terrible situation? Will she make it clear that in pursuing the various expedients to which she referred and which are open to this and other governments, Her Majesty's Government will have very much in mind that their first duty is to see to it that Her Majesty's forces do not suffer death or injury as a result of doing their duty in this area?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I have every sympathy with what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said. In supplying troops to help the humanitarian aid effort, it has never been our intention that those troops should expose themselves to death or injury. However, one cannot be active in a war zone such as this, as I have seen for myself, without being exposed to death and injury. I have been surprised and heartened by the courage which soldiers have indicated to me. We have always asked their commanding officers to ensure that they are not placed at undue risk. That is why the calls for armed intervention, air strikes or even, by some, for people on the ground give us great difficulty. Were we to go down that path, as my noble friend knows, we would not only endanger the innocent civilians in the areas in which the operations took place and also all of our own troops, but it would almost certainly stop our humanitarian aid effort.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I remind the noble Baroness that on 11th March she and my noble friend Lord Stoddart warned against any military interference. I would be vehemently opposed to using only British troops in this terrible event. However, since 11th March thousands have been slain and now tens of thousands are starving. It appears to many people in our country who do not want British troops to become involved on their own that the United Nations and Europe are impotent over this terrible event. They can do nothing whatsoever. Sanctions are a complete waste of time.

We have gone through this before. When Mr. Neville Chamberlain was tempted to use sanctions against the Nazis, he said that instead we had to use force, and on our own. This country then went on the road which would save mankind from the terrors of Nazism. Therefore, I believe that we have to make sure that the United Nations can supply forces. It ought to be able to do so. Otherwise, there will be no way of stopping this terrible affair. By the time I have sat down, another 50 or 60 people will have been slain. The Serbs are going from strength to strength. They are even stealing the arms and food that we have dropped by parachute. Is it not time for the United Nations to assert itself as a world organisation to prevent the appalling behaviour of the Serbs?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, as your Lordships know, I am not given to defending the United Nations on many occasions. However, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, is being a little unfair. Perhaps I may say this to him. We have had more backing through resolutions in the United Nations in this matter than I believe even over the situation in Kuwait. But because of old alliances between the Serbs, Russians and others, it has been difficult to achieve intervention in what started out certainly as an internal war. The articles of the United Nations show quite clearly why that was written down in the first place and why it has been difficult to get the resolutions right.

The noble Lord may have noticed that in the Statement that I repeated, I spoke of NATO and WEU efforts. For some time we have believed that the best way to operate within the territory might well be under NATO and WEU command because those structures are used to working together. But it does not alter the fact that we are very reluctant not just to put British troops on the ground but to put any troops on the ground having seen the savagery of the conflict and the total situation. No one knows that better than the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees.

Perhaps I may remind the noble Lord that it was not British troops who parachuted goods into Bosnia. I never believed that to be a good way of delivering food and medicines; I argued quite strongly against it. However, the Americans wished to do it, they did so, and some people at least obtained the relief, although I must agree with him that quite a lot of the supplies did not go where the Americans had hoped they would.

Lord Monson

My Lords, will the noble Baroness state whether the United Nations has any plans to ensure that the adult Moslem males in Srebrenica who surrender their pitifully few arms to United Nations forces will not be subsequently massacred by the victorious Serbs? Are there any plans to ensure that Moslem females of all ages are not raped en masse by the victorious Serbs? Finally, if all Moslem houses in the area are razed to the ground as is the normal practice in those circumstances, how will the Vance-Owen plan be implemented given that there will be no homes to which the displaced Moslems can eventually return?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, the reason for the deployment of the Canadian forces in Srebrenica is to prevent the horrors that the noble Lord described to adult Moslem males and to women. With regard to the razing of homes, of course it is not simply the Serbs who have razed Moslem homes, although that has been what has occurred in the Moslem enclaves. In other parts of Bosnia we know that Moslems have razed Croatian homes and everyone has attacked everyone else.

The whole situation is very difficult. Even the United Nations, with many more men, could not police every eventuality. However, within the UNPROFOR command, we have to do the very best we can to protect in particular the vulnerable; and by that I really do mean the children and the women who have been so violently abused whom our own project seeks to help in Bosnia. I know that the UNPROFOR forces will do all that they can. We are reminding the United Nations in New York of the possibilities and the limitations of action so that we do not excite expectations beyond what we are able to deliver.

Baroness Elles

My Lords, although the question may be premature, has there been any discussion through Her Majesty's Government at the United Nations on setting up war crimes trials for those who have been perpetrating these ghastly deeds, including rape, on thousands of Moslem and Croatian women and the behaviour of the Serbs in their present ploys in former Yugoslavia?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, a considerable amount of work has been undertaken upon that issue. I do not have my notes with me today to tell my noble friend the exact stage which that discussion has reached. However, I shall write to her about it.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I was very pleased to hear that the noble Baroness and the Government want a political settlement in Bosnia. However, I was rather anxious that she may be weakening on the question of air strikes. Is she aware that air strikes may be inaccurate and cause many civilian casualties as has already been pointed out? In that case the United Nations would become the villains. Furthermore, if United Nations aircraft were shot down, there would be cause for an escalation of the conflict and the placing of ground troops in the area. I hope that the Government will not go along that route in any way.

Finally, if there is to be a political settlement, there has to be a plan which is acceptable to all the parties, and seen by all the parties to be fair to them all. Is not the Owen-Vance plan defective because it is not seen to be fair by all the parties? Ought we not to return now to the negotiating table to seek a plan that will be acceptable to all?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, no one has been more opposed to air strikes than I have been. It is perfectly true that one cannot guarantee their accuracy. There is also the abominable possibility that Serbs would put Moslem people near to the vulnerable points which might indeed be the subject of any air strike. Therefore the chance of civilian casualties is very great indeed if one has to follow that path. I sincerely hope that that will not be necessary. What is absolutely critical is that the international community work together in this situation. No one country can take responsibility for all that needs to be done. That is why we are in close contact with all the other parties.

The noble Lord spoke of a political settlement being fair to all the parties. When the Vance-Owen plan was put together —it has been signed by the Croats and the Moslems in Bosnia but not by the Serbs—it was the result of very long discussion between the different groups. Since that discussion took place and the Vance-Owen peace plan drawn up, there have been movements away from the positions taken in a number of cases. Therefore it makes the situation all the more difficult. One does not have a static target in terms of the peace plan. That will make the position more difficult. However, I know that our noble friend Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance are determined to do all they can to achieve a peace plan that will work.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes

My Lords, will my noble friend tell your Lordships' House whether the Government are associated with the statement made on television by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that if we were to arm the Moslems, arms would be poured into Serbia by the Russians? Will she tell the House whether those are the same Russians who have recently asked for and obtained billions of pounds worth of loan money? Does that not constitute a sanction?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I do not believe that my noble friend was with us last Wednesday when I stated that I did not believe that the lifting of the arms embargo on Bosnia would mean new arms only for the Moslems. It would also mean new arms for the Croats and the Serbs. There is no doubt that as soon as one has the restarting of the arms supply, one will have a strengthening of the arms of all parties.

As to whether they are the same Russians, they do not include the Russian Foreign Minister, Mr. Kozyrev or any of the others. While in no sense bringing the two issues together, we have sought to make clear to the Russians that we rely on their efforts to persuade the Serbs to desist from their terrible activities. However, it is not only the Serbs who have to desist; there are also other groups who have caused great harm, violence and torture to people in the area.

Lord Annan

My Lords, there have been rumours that the new French Government intend to remove General Morillon and send him to the equivalent, these days, of Limoges. Can the Minister reassure the House that that is not the case? This gallant officer has won the admiration of people in this country for his forthright behaviour and refusal to truckle to the Serbs.

Secondly, is it possible to mount some operation which may concentrate the mind of the Belgrade Government more than we have been able to so far?

I have in mind the possibility of designating an agricultural area devoid of population, 20 miles outside Belgrade and sending a large bomber force to saturate the area. It might persuade the Belgrade Government that the injuries that have been inflicted upon the women and children in Srebrenica and Sarajevo could well be inflicted on the civilian population, were the Western powers so to decide.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I well understand the frustration which the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and others have expressed in this House. When one has seen a brave soldier in the field, it seems ridiculous that he should not continue in the post. However, he has been there a long while. It is not a matter for this Government; it is for the French Government and the UN. I know that the general's bravery is well recognised and the gratitude of many hundreds of thousands of people is well known to him.

We all seek a way in which to concentrate the mind of the Belgrade Government, but I am not sure that the solution advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, is one which we should necessarily follow. I shall certainly think about any suggestion made from any part of the House and hope that we may proceed in some way.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, will the Minister give further consideration to the remarks made by her noble friend Lady Elles in connection with the war crimes tribunal? Would it be possible at this stage to obtain the co-operation of the Security Council itself in ensuring that named people among the Serbian command are personally notified of their liability under the proposed war crimes commission? Most bullies are also cowards.

Further, would it be possible to induce the Security Council to adopt the principle that the step of pursuing those responsible in order to bring them before a war crimes tribunal would he reinforced by the continuation of sanctions and a blockade until the miscreants were brought before the commission?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I shall examine what the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, said with extreme care. However, I shall not make general responses to difficult questions of that nature.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

My Lords, the last shall be first! I welcome the Statement made by my noble friend, but I wish to pick up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bonham Carter, on humanitarian aid. Surely the most important thing at the moment is to get that humanitarian aid to those genuinely in need. Can the Minister confirm that the United Kingdom is playing its part in ensuring that that is happening?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I wish to tell my noble friend Lord Archer that the UK was the first donor to respond to the latest UN appeal with a further commitment of £15 million. We have made sure that there were specialist staff, when needed, in the UNHCR and that all the elements of the humanitarian aid programme were there not only from ourselves but also from others who were encouraged to do likewise. I believe that we have been among the foremost in providing aid and we shall continue to do as much as we possibly can.

Lord Elton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that she should receive more support than she appears to be getting? We have been questioning her as though Britain were conducting the campaign on its own. Our country is doing something far more difficult, correlating the campaign with many countries with the success that, for example, up to 2¼ million people are now alive who otherwise would not be. That deserves congratulation, as does the recognition that when one is putting out a fire, one has to starve it either of oxygen or of fuel. The oxygen in this fight is the hate between the ethnic groups. We cannot starve them of that, but we can starve them of weapons and ammunition, and that is also to be applauded.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that question. I entirely agree with the suggestions he made; that is exactly what we seek to do.