HL Deb 07 December 1995 vol 567 cc1047-9

3.22 p.m.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

What will be the terms of reference of the peace implementation conference for Bosnia, to be held in London on 8th and 9th December.

Lord Chesham

My Lords, there are no fixed terms of reference for the conference. However, it may assist the noble Lord and the House if I advise them that the aim of the London peace implementation conference is to agree structures for the civilian implementation and ensure that those mesh with the framework for the military implementation force (IFOR) for which planning within NATO is well advanced. The London conference will open with a briefing on IFOR and thereafter focus on civilian implementation structures and the high representative; humanitarian issues, refugees and displaced persons; political institutions and elections; and reconstruction and development.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply and particularly for what he said about the civilian aspects of the conference. Will the Government ensure that the human rights aspect, especially the right of return of displaced persons, is fully considered, bearing in mind the implications of the right of return for future elections?

Lord Chesham

My Lords, the timing of the return of refugees will be looked at in conjunction with the military timetable. It will probably be better to avoid large scale returns until the forces are separated. We believe that that is the way it should be done.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that we all strongly admire the role that British forces and British relief workers have played in former Yugoslavia up to the present time? Will he give the House an assurance now that Her Majesty's Government will see the peace implementation through?

Lord Chesham

My Lords, obviously the signing ceremony in Paris will be very important. We are very keen and determined that it should go through, but that is not totally up to us. We want to support it as much as possible. I thank the noble Lord and agree with him totally about the excellent job that our forces have done so far. I believe that providing that everything comes together as we hope they will certainly continue to do so in the future.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, I am sure that the whole House wishes the conference the greatest possible success and the Government an easy time organising it. Can the Government say whether they favour the United States' wish that the original agreement should continue to be called the Dayton agreement or whether they favour the French wish that, since it is to be signed at the Elysée in Paris, it should be called the Elysée treaty?

Lord Chesham

My Lords, I do not have any briefing on that. I should like to say that, to be quite honest, it does not matter what it is called. If it can be implemented and effective, we can call it what anyone pleases.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, are we to infer from the noble Lord's original reply that at this conference there will be a departure from the usual practice, of which the noble Lord is well aware, of a draft communiqué being placed before the conference anyway?

Lord Chesham

My Lords, I should imagine that in this situation any draft communiqué would be after the conference and not beforehand.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, the words of the Minister in answer to the original Question were very welcome. Will he say a little more, in particular with reference to the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bosnia? Can he give an assurance that the work of that very valuable organisation will be taken care of; in other words, that its role will be protected in any discussions which take place at the conference?

Lord Chesham

My Lords, I can indeed assure the noble Lord that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees will provide a briefing on the UNHCR work at the conference. The representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross will also outline the tasks facing aid agencies. So the conference will be fully aware of the problems and will hope to assist them.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, does the Minister agree that securing a long-term peace in Bosnia will be greatly helped by a meaningful programme of economic reconstruction? As the UK Government will chair the London peace conference, presumably they will take the lead in asking the international community for support for that purpose. In that context, what kind of funding will the UK Government be offering?

Lord Chesham

My Lords, I totally agree that reconstruction is an essential part of long-term peace in the area. The final decisions on who will be contributing what will be discussed at the conference and thereafter. The humanitarian effort that we have made over the past three years, including the ODA' s £283.5 million contribution, has laid a foundation. However, at this stage I cannot state what the UK Government's contribution will be.

Lord Wright of Richmond

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the International Committee of the Red Cross has played an important role in ensuring the observance of the Geneva Conventions in former Yugoslavia? Are the Government yet in a position to tell the House whether and when they will ratify the additional protocols of the Geneva Convention?

Lord Chesham

My Lords, I endorse the noble Lord's words so far as concerns the activities of the Red Cross. I shall have to write to him with regard to his second request.

Lord Craig of Radley

My Lords, is it the case that Her Majesty's Government have limited the allocation of forces to IFOR for a period of 12 months? If so, when does the clock which measures the 12 months start ticking?

Lord Chesham

My Lords, the NATO forces are indeed committed for a period of 12 months and to come out within 12 months. The clock will start ticking after the North Atlantic Council authorisation of the operation, which will follow the final signature of the peace agreement and UN Security Council resolution. The main NATO forces will begin to deploy immediately following the NAC decision. It is important to deploy rapidly to capitalise on the signature and maintain the momentum of the peace process. However, I should like to add that the commitment of substantial US ground forces is a prerequisite for the involvement of our own forces.