HL Deb 25 May 1993 vol 546 cc167-70

2.46 p.m.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they can give assurance that they will not support the lifting of the sanctions upon Serbia until peace has been restored to the former Yugoslavia, and in particular until majority rule has been established in the former autonomous province of Kosovo.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Henley)

My Lords, the sanctions imposed on Serbia and Montenegro under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 757, 787 and 820 will remain in force until the Security Council decides that the authorities in Serbia and Montenegro have taken effective measures to fulfil the requirements set out in Security Council Resolution 752 of 15th May 1992. Those requirements include an end to the fighting in Bosnia Herzegovina and an end to outside interference in that state.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. Will he be so kind as to refer to Kosovo which was mentioned in my Question? I believe that Kosovo was not mentioned in the Statement repeated yesterday in this House by our noble friend. Will he confirm that the Washington communiqué includes the policy that international standards of human rights should be strongly respected in Kosovo? What will be Her Majesty's Government's policy if the Serbs once again initiate there the odious policy of ethnic cleansing?

Lord Henley

My Lords, the necessity for majority rule in Kosovo is not part of Security Council Resolution 752. We do not believe that it would be desirable to risk disturbing the existing agreement by seeking an amendment to that resolution. Nevertheless, I join my noble friend in condemning any Serbian abuse of human rights in Kosovo. The international conference is still working to press the Serbian authorities to grant Kosovo genuine autonomy with full human rights and to persuade Kosovans to accept something short of full independence. I can confirm that my noble friend is correct when he says that the Washington communiqué (paragraph 11, I think) makes it clear that we favour an increase in the international monitoring presence in Kosovo. We are sending an additional UK member to join it next week, and, resources permitting, we shall consider further requests to strengthen it in due course.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, while recognising that the grandfathers of the present Serbs made a big contribution to our endeavours in the last war, their present behaviour is worse than the fascism and Nazism of those who opposed us at that time. Does he agree that this dispute must be resolved not just by British or American forces but by world forces? Unless the United Nations gathers together the free world, its name will not mean much in the future.

Lord Henley

My Lords, I join the noble Lord in condemning the actions of the Bosnian Serbs. We are dealing with a civil war there. However much the United Nations can do—I hope that the United Nations can do a great deal—it must in the end be for the warring factions to sort these problems out themselves. It must be for them to reach an agreement. There is no way in which an agreement can be imposed upon them. There must be an agreement on the ground among the various warring factions.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that Kosovo was majority Serb populated at the time of the treaty of Bucharest in 1913 which set up the Serbian boundaries? Is he also aware that since that time it has become much more Albanian populated? The Serbs seem to have fallen away as regards the population figures and the Albanians seem to have bred rather vigorously.

Taking that into account, and considering also the fact that Kosovo has a mystical effect on Serbian history—after all, in 1389 in the field that I think was called the Blackbirds the Serbian nobility was completely exterminated by the Turks—it is a much more complicated problem than practically any other in the Balkans. That must be borne in mind when dealing with the problem which is not a simple one. Is my noble friend further aware that it is an immensely complicated and very difficult problem and one which must be handled with kid gloves if we do not want the whole situation to become worse and much nastier?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I cannot confirm my noble friend's figure for the population balance in 1913. However, I can confirm that nowadays it is something of the order of 90 per cent Albanian. My noble friend is correct to say that the issue is immensely complicated. But, at present, we see no signs of widespread conflict spreading to Kosovo. Nevertheless, the Serbs have certainly been warned by the international community that we certainly would not tolerate any aggression there.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, can the Minister say whether sanctions will be lifted while the Serbs continue to occupy 70 per cent of the land of Bosnia which they have obtained by ethnic cleansing and aggression?

Lord Henley

My Lords, sanctions will continue until the resolutions set out in the Security Council Resolution 752 are met. They include the occupation of land illegally by Bosnian Serbs—or, for that matter, by Serbs—in Bosnia—Herzegovina.

The Earl of Strafford

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the situation in Bosnia is like that of Humpty—Dumpty after he had had his great fall and that all the Davids and the Cyruses cannot put Bosnia together again? Does he further agree that it is vital to ensure that the Bosnian Moslems are allowed to keep an adequate piece of their country?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I accept that there certainly is a very difficult task facing the entire world in terms, as the noble Earl put it, of putting Bosnia together again. But, in the end, it must be a matter for the warring factions in that country to come to some sort of agreement themselves—with all the help that the international community and the United Nations can give them—and by those means bring peace to that troubled part of the world.

Lord Bonham—Carter

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether Mr. Milosevic has agreed that the borders between Serbia and Bosnia should be properly monitored to ensure that the sanctions to which he has agreed are rigorously enforced?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I can confirm that Mr. Milosevic has given a pledge that he will try to stop the traffic across that Serbian—Bosnian border. The evidence is that the traffic has certainly been reduced across that border. I would say that that is evidence that sanctions are, to some extent, having some effect on the Serbians and on Mr. Milosevic. However, we shall certainly continue to press for further international observers to monitor Mr. Milosevic's pledge.

Lord Bonham—Carter

My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether international observers are there at the present time?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I am not aware that they are there at present. Our intention is that there should be some. Our understanding is that the traffic on the border has been considerably reduced. We have a pledge from Mr. Milosevic to ensure that sanctions are maintained on that particular border. That is a matter for the Serbian authorities.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I should like to pursue the matter a little further. Is the Minister aware that there have been a number of reports that the Government in Belgrade and Mr. Milosevic are refusing international monitors on the border between Serbia and Bosnia? If that is the case, and if it continues, can the Minister say what the UK Government intend to do through the UN Security Council and with our EC partners?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I am trying to make clear that it is a matter for the Serbian authorities and for Mr. Milosevic to police that border and to maintain sanctions there. Her Majesty's Government will continue to press for international observers to monitor Mr. Milosevic's pledge. I do not think that I can go much further than that.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that there will be no watering down of the determination to prosecute war crimes?

Lord Henley

Yes, my Lords; I can give my noble friend that assurance.