HL Deb 14 June 1999 vol 602 cc38-53

4.52 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement on recent developments in Kosovo made in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

"Today is the fifth day since the entry into force of the military agreement. I can report to the House that Serb forces are leaving Kosovo, broadly in line with the phased withdrawal set out in that agreement. Meanwhile, NATO forces have entered much of southern and central Kosovo and are ahead of the planned timetable for their deployment.

"The whole House will wish to congratulate our troops on the professionalism with which they have deployed so quickly and efficiently. Members of the House will have seen pictures of the spontaneous welcome they have received from Kosovo Albanians wherever they have gone. The warmth with which those Albanians have expressed their joy at our arrival speaks volumes for the brutality and the terror from which our campaign has liberated them. For the past two months they have seen their neighbours massacred, their relatives raped and their homes burnt. Now they can see a future in which none of these crimes can return to haunt Kosovo.

"The presence of Russian troops around the airport has not interfered with the deployment of NATO forces. Our forces are entering as planned from Macedonia. It is important to keep a sense of perspective on the numbers involved. There are only a couple of hundred Russian troops in Kosovo, compared with 14,000 NATO troops.

"General Jackson this morning had a businesslike meeting with General Zavarzin, the commander of Russian troops at Pristina airport. He has just reported that he hopes that agreement can be reached on assimilating the Russian troops into KFOR.

"Nevertheless, it was plainly unsatisfactory that Russian troops should have entered without co-ordination. Yesterday I spoke at length to Igor Ivanov, the Russian Foreign Minister, and we agreed that there should be no more surprise moves. He gave an undertaking that Russia would not deploy any further troops without prior agreement. Earlier undertakings about Russian deployments have not all been respected. It is crucial that this undertaking should be fully respected.

"Negotiations, led by the United States, continue over how Russia's contribution to KFOR can be integrated into the overall operation. These have been protracted negotiations. On the Russian side, their military have sought a sector of their own. On our side, we have insisted that any outcome must meet the terms of the peace plan for a single operation with a unified chain of command. There is no provision anywhere in the peace plan for partition of Kosovo.

"Several non-NATO countries will contribute forces to Kosovo. I have always made clear that we would welcome Russia also working with us as partners in the peacekeeping force. But it must be as part of a single, integrated operation, not as an independent force.

"That reflects our commitment to liberating the whole, not part, of Kosovo. We now face a major challenge in helping all of Kosovo to recover from the atrocities of the past year. There are four immediate priorities.

"First, we must ensure security and safety for all the people of Kosovo, whether Albanian or Serb, or any other ethnic group. KFOR will be alert and robust in ensuring that all Serb forces withdraw from Kosovo within the agreed timetable, which should be completed over the next week.

"KFOR will also be responsible for the demilitarisation of the Kosovo Liberation Army. I spoke last night to Hashem Thaqi, the leader of the KLA, and stressed that we expect restraint from the KLA as the Serb forces withdraw, and co-operation in our efforts to end all violence in Kosovo.

"Secondly, we must provide urgent relief to the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons who have spent the last two months hiding from Serb forces on the hillsides and in the forests inside Kosovo. A convoy with much British support delivered humanitarian supplies to Pristina yesterday on behalf of UNHCY and is reloading today in Macedonia.

"Thirdly, we must manage the return of the masses of refugees who were deported as part of Milosevic's failed plan for the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. We should not be glib about refugees returning to their homes. Many of their homes have been blown up or burnt down by Serb aggression. We face a major task in helping the bulk of the refugees to rebuild their homes before the Balkan winter sets in. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development has today announced a further £50 million for humanitarian relief on top of the £40 million already provided.

"Fourthly, we must record the evidence of the war crimes that have been committed in Kosovo to enforce its ethnic cleansing. There has already been the horrific discovery of a mass grave containing a large number of villagers massacred at Kacanik. We have already started the deployment of a British police team to Macedonia in order that the War Crimes Tribunal can draw on their forensic skill and experience in exhuming victims of the atrocities and identifying the cause of death. Although we have brought peace to Kosovo, its people will not live in peace with themselves unless we bring to justice those responsible for such atrocities.

"For the immediate future, responsibility for the government of Kosovo will be in the hands of an international civil administration. This will be led by the United Nations, but will draw on the contributions of the European Union, the OSCE and the UNHCR. It will be charged with rebuilding the physical infrastructure of Kosovo, regenerating its economy and supervising free elections to new political institutions. Over a period of time, it will transfer its powers to the local people in line with our goal of democratic self-government for Kosovo.

"From the start of the conflict this Government have stressed that we want it to be a turning-point for the whole of the region. All of the many neighbours of Serbia have shown total solidarity with the NATO campaign. We must not now forget the courage and commitment which those governments showed in aligning themselves with us.

"On Thursday, I attended the launch of the Stability Pact, a forum bringing together the countries of the region with the EU, the US, Russia and other key international players. I pledged that, for our part, Britain will be their partner in helping to accelerate their integration into the modern Europe. To do that, we must open up the wealthy markets of the European Union so that they can share our prosperity through increased trade; and we must invest in developing their democratic institutions, civic society and open media in order that they can share in our standards of freedom.

"We hope that one day the people of Serbia will also be able to share in the benefits of the Stability Pact. However, first, it will be necessary for the government in Belgrade to renounce the policies of Milosevic which have brought so much violence to their neighbours and so much poverty to themselves. We cannot embrace Serbia in the modern Europe until Serbia embraces our values of belief in the equality of all citizens irrespective of ethnic identity, and respect for the rights of minorities. There would have been no turning point for the countries of the region if the international community had not demonstrated that we would not tolerate the brutality and ethnic cleansing which Milosevic visited upon Kosovo. The revulsion around the world at the expulsion of the Albanians from Kosovo is confirmed in the text of the Security Council resolution, which was drafted by the G8 Foreign Ministers over 12 hours of negotiation last week. That resolution condemns the violence against the people of Kosovo and demands full co-operation with the War Crimes Tribunal. It meets all our key objectives: the withdrawal of all Serb forces; the deployment of an international military force with a unified command; and the return without hindrance of all refugees.

"There is much hard work still to be done before we have created a Kosovo which will give its people the opportunity to earn their living in peace. The time to celebrate will be when we have settled all the refugees in their homes. But all those in the House who supported NATO's campaign can be satisfied with an outcome that has vindicated the strategy of the alliance and its resolve to defeat the forces of ethnic cleansing. We have compelled an end to the atrocities in Kosovo and secured a future for its people free from fear. We have shown that the era of forced mass deportation of a whole people belongs to Europe's past and that we will not tolerate it coming back again.

"We promised the refugees that we would take them back to Kosovo under our protection. We now have the opportunity to fulfil that promise and we will not slacken in our resolve or determination until we have helped them all go home."

My Lords, that completes the Statement.

5.1 p.m.

Lord Moynihan

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place and for keeping this House informed of developments in Kosovo as the KFOR peacekeeping operation commences its first week. Much progress has been made over the past few days. NATO's willingness to stand firm in the face of tests to its resolve has borne the first fruits of peace. I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government and our Armed Forces on what has been achieved. In particular, I pay tribute to the critically important role that is being played by General Sir Michael Jackson and to the exemplary performance of the forces that he leads.

Nevertheless, recent developments also demonstrate the scale of the problems still to be overcome in Kosovo and the difficult decisions which will need to be taken. NATO's response to those decisions will be critical in determining the ultimate success of the operation. Since the first KFOR troops entered Kosovo it has been clear that this is a region where feelings are running dangerously high. Kosovo is a tinderbox of tension as the joy of liberation for the Kosovo Albanians is matched by the bitterness of defeat for the Serbs. This has been demonstrated all too clearly by the conflicts which have arisen between Serbs and British and German troops respectively over the weekend.

Can the Minister confirm that the withdrawal agreement is being adhered to in full by the Serbian forces? Will the Minister provide information on the means by which KFOR is reassuring the remaining Serbian population of Kosovo of its impartiality? Does the Minister agree that the decisive test of NATO's success will be whether the hundreds of thousands of refugees scattered across Europe feel able to return to their homes in Kosovo? Further, does she agree that the composition and deployment of the peacekeeping forces continue to be crucial in this respect?

On that note, I share the Minister's concern over the early deployment of Russian forces in Kosovo and their continued occupation of Pristina airport. In a Statement to this House last Thursday the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, confirmed that British troops could enter Kosovo as early as last Friday. Can the Minister confirm that NATO originally planned for British paratroopers to enter Kosovo on Friday morning, 24 hours after the signing and verification of the agreement? Does not Article II, paragraph 2a, of the military technical agreement signed by General Jackson specify that one day after its entry into force FRY forces would have vacated zone 3 and that the international security force would deploy "rapidly" to avoid a "security gap"? Why were these plans cancelled? Why was a technical and logistical briefing which had been arranged for reporters earlier on Thursday also cancelled?

Can the Minister say when NATO first learnt that Russian troops were entering Kosovo? Is she aware that Brcko Radio reported on Friday morning that Russian troops had departed their barracks in Lopare and Zivinice and that at 10.30 a.m. on Friday Russian troops crossed the border into Serbia at Paylovica Cuprija and that these reports were confirmed by SFOR? Is it not the case that, even if at that point, British troops had moved to Pristina, they would have arrived before the Russians? Is the Minister aware that a further 150 Russian troops were reported yesterday morning to be waiting at Bijeljina to be ready to move into Serbia to reinforce Russian troops at the airport? Can the Minister confirm that Russia has given an assurance that there will be no more surprise troop movements in Kosovo, particularly in the light of reports today that Hungary has refused Russia overflight permission to fly military equipment into Belgrade?

Referring to the future control of Pristina airport, can the noble Baroness say when she expects this matter to be resolved and whether, as just indicated by the Minister, it is subject not just to military negotiation on the ground but also negotiation at a political level? To what extent does the Minister consider that control of the airport is important to the success of the NATO operation, in both strategic and political terms? Will the Minister confirm that the alternative base for KFOR is intended to be temporary in nature?

The deadlock over control of Pristina airport has further highlighted the disputes over Russia's role in the international peacekeeping force and the difficulties that NATO has encountered in seeking to establish a unified chain of command for KFOR with NATO at its core. The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, last Thursday ruled out a partitioned Kosovo, as the Minister has just done. Can the Minister, therefore, comment on media reports over the weekend that, in the light of the stand-off at the report, US envoy Strobe Talbott has offered to allow Russia a "zone of responsibility" in Kosovo; or is it still the case that, as US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has previously said, NATO will be "embedded in every sector"?

We welcome the acceptance by the Minister that such a Russian-controlled zone would undermine the key principle reiterated by the Secretary of State for Defence yesterday and that there will be no partition of Kosovo, since such a zone would amount to a de facto partition. To agree to a Russian-controlled enclave would, surely, have the disastrous result of creating a haven for Kosovo Serbs and a no-go area for Kosovo Albanians. While discussions on this critical point continue, can the Minister say to what extent the arrangements in Bosnia, where the Russians are spread across the UK-led Multinational Division (North), are seen as a model for Kosovo?

Does the Minister agree that these events have demonstrated once again that any agreements over Kosovo must be absolutely watertight? The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, spoke last week about the importance of unified control for all allied troops and for non-NATO troops in Kosovo. The Foreign Secretary said this morning that the Russian Government made a commitment yesterday that Russian troops would be integrated into the overall peacekeeping force. When does the Minister envisage that the terms of this agreement will be finalised?

There are reports today, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, that the first hard evidence of the type of atrocities which refugees have been consistently describing for months has been uncovered. At Kacanik, for example, reporters have counted 80 fresh graves. War crimes investigators are travelling to the site to begin the process of verification of the evidence. In addition to her comments, can the Minister inform the House what specific arrangements are being made for the investigators of war crimes to be given unhindered access to the evidence that they need? Finally, can the Minister provide a little further detail on the developments associated with the first convoy of humanitarian aid to Pristina? How will the Government continue to ensure that the humanitarian and reconstruction efforts are co-ordinated efficiently?

From these Benches we hope that the many issues raised in the Minister's Statement can be covered in depth in a full day's debate in your Lordships' House. I hope that the usual channels will take note and action accordingly, for the events of the past week have lit a beacon of hope for the future of Kosovo. We must ensure that our efforts to secure a lasting settlement for all the population of Kosovo keep alight that beacon of hope and that no one is allowed to extinguish it.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, I echo the congratulations expressed to our Armed Forces and add my congratulations to the Government on the resolve and determination they have exhibited over the past few weeks. Many people criticised the operation, saying that it could not succeed, and that air power alone would be unable to secure the objectives at which NATO was aiming. The Government persisted in their resolve and proved the critics wrong

There has been an excellent start to the implementation of the agreement under which the NATO forces have entered the territory without encountering serious resistance and were successful in disarming the remnants of the Serb forces which remain with only a handful of small incidents. The Statement mentions the excellent reception that our forces received. It is a reflection of the suffering and hardships endured by the people of Kosovo and vindicates the action that we have taken to restore to their homes those 708,000 people who have been expelled from their own country as well as the additional hundreds of thousands who are displaced within Kosovo.

The more we uncover what has been going on, the more we prove the moral legitimacy of the operation since the Serbian authorities were in the process of murdering, indirectly causing the death of, or expelling from their homes the whole of the population of Kosovo. If one looks at the history of Milosevic's activities in Kosovo, and before that in Bosnia, there is no reason to doubt that if we had not intervened that would have been the end result of the policy.

I take the point that there are only 200 Russian troops in Pristina airport. Can the Minister say whether the Russians have indicated definitely that that is the ultimate size of its contribution to the occupation forces? Alternatively, if agreement can be secured, would they bring in larger numbers of troops; and, if so, would they use Pristina airport to bring them in?

The Statement states that it was the military on the Russian side which sought a sector of its own. Does that mean that there is a difference of opinion between the Russian military and its political masters, with the political masters not insisting on a special sector but the Russian military saying that it should have one? If that were so, it is difficult to see how the undertakings now given by the Russians, and mentioned in the Statement, could be honoured.

I was glad to hear that British police officers have already entered Kosovo and are beginning to investigate the war crimes. No doubt this will be an extremely large job. It is essential that the resources should be brought in as early as possible so that the evidence can be secured. Will the noble Baroness say what arrangements there will be for the storage of forensic evidence, and the taking of statements in accordance with the rules of evidence which apply before the international tribunal on former Yugoslavia so that whatever evidence is uncovered by our police officers can be presented ultimately to the War Crimes Tribunal without doubts about its authenticity?

I was also pleased to learn about the additional £50 million provided by the Government. Is there a budget for the overall operation of getting the refugees and displaced persons back into their homes by the winter, and looking after them until they are able to earn a living? Can we yet begin to work out the costs of rebuilding the houses and infrastructure of Kosovo?

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Avebury, for their support and the kind remarks they made about Her Majesty's Government; and most particularly about the British forces which have gone into Kosovo.

There has been a great deal of progress over the past few days, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, about the vindication of the Government's position over using air strikes as the primary means of bringing Mr Milosevic to the point of deciding to withdraw the Serbian forces from Kosovo. In particular we must all wish General Sir Michael Jackson and his forces well. They have done a splendid job so far and I am confident that they will continue to do so over the next few days. They will have a difficult task. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence made it clear that in many ways it is this stage of the operation that is so delicate and sensitive. As both noble Lords made clear, we have all seen on our television screens how high feelings are running on this issue. It has been heart-warming, even moving, to see the welcome accorded the NATO KFOR troops going into Kosovo. However, the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is right: the reverse side of that coin can be very ugly feelings towards some Serb neighbours whom individuals may hold responsible in part, perhaps mistakenly, for some of the atrocities visited upon them, their neighbours and their families.

Over the next few days or so, I suspect that we shall find evidence of more appalling atrocities. This will not just he a case of word of mouth and the terrible descriptions that we have all heard over the past 10 weeks or so. I suspect that we shall see some truly dreadful footage on our televisions; and that will make feelings run very high indeed. The troops will also have to cope with the terrible problems which we know exist of booby traps, mines, and everything else. It is a very difficult time for them. I am sure that we wish them Godspeed in the difficult work that they are undertaking.

The noble Lord asked me whether Serb troops are withdrawing. Yes, they are withdrawing. As the Statement I repeated earlier made clear, the NATO troops are ahead of schedule in going into Kosovo. The troops have explicit instructions that they are there to enforce peace across the whole of Kosovo. The Statement makes clear that it is not just a question of looking after the interests of the Kosovo Albanians but of looking after everyone irrespective of ethnic origin. Some noble Lords may have heard, as I did last week, young British troops saying how clear that had been made to them. I think that there was a report on the "Today" programme. I found it reassuring that not only was the message being sent; it was being received by those troops as part of their remit.

As the Statement makes clear, of course we found difficulty with what happened at Pristina airport. But I understand that the MTA was the practical understanding of how the military would work on the ground: that it was a question of military logistics. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that it has not delayed the KFOR troops going in. Indeed, as I said, they are ahead of their schedule. In any case, as I understand it, they could not have gone into Pristina airport because the airport was at the time ringed by the VJ—that is, Serbian forces. All those issues have been discussed by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and his counterpart Mr Igor Ivanov. We have been assured in the way that the Statement makes clear. On the ground, General Sir Michael Jackson has reported that as a result of the discussions he had this morning he is optimistic that these matters will he sorted out. But the noble Lord is right: at one level there As a military discussion going on on the ground in Kosovo; but at another level there is a political discussion—as the Statement makes clear—between the United States and Russia about how the chain of command can be integrated.

If noble Lords read the UNSCR and the annexes to it they will see that the unified chain of command is part and parcel of the understanding reached in New York last week. Of course there are a number of different discussions going on about how to give that some practical impact as regards not just Pristina airport but the whole of Kosovo. Those discussions continue. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is right: one model which can be looked at is the Bosnian model. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked about numbers. So far there are only 200 Russian troops in Pristina airport. On the ground there are about 14,000 NATO troops. We hope that that figure will rise over the next: few days and weeks to 45,000 of the KFOR force, of which some 13,000 are expected to come from the United Kingdom. We would like to see more Russian input into KFOR for the final arrangements and we very much hope that the Russians, who we always hoped would be part of the peacekeeping force, will take that opportunity. Indeed, I am sure that that is their intention.

The UNSCR also makes clear that it is the duty of everyone to co-operate with the War Crimes Tribunal. That "everyone" includes the government in Belgrade. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked particularly about the arrangements in that respect. The senior FCO official, David Gowan, has been appointed to be the Kosovo war crimes co-ordinator. lie will have responsibility for ensuring that our Government pass on to the ICTY as much information as possible. However. I hope that the teams which will be going—one from the United Kingdom and others from elsewhere in KFOR—will be able to make some progress on that front.

The humanitarian aid which my noble friend announced today will be going across the board in Kosovo, not solely to one part of the community, in order to help to improve the standards there. ] t will be part and parcel of the civil implementation arrangements which have been agreed, and to which reference was made in the Statement. Those civil arrangements include not only the return of the refugees, which is a UNHCR return, but I am sure that my colleagues in the Department for International Development will be planning a great deal of help. The arrangements will also include policing, de-mining, which is an important part of the work, and work as regards war crimes.

5.21 p.m.

Lord Marlesford

My Lords, does the Minister agree that surprise moves have long been the currency of Russian diplomatic and military tactics? Does she further agree that undertaking not to make surprise moves are their coins of currency and that in that context it ought to have been possible to foresee and forestall the unfortunate move of the Russians to Pristina airport? Furthermore, is she aware that Russian diplomatic and military strategists have always been taught of the need to be good chess players? Will she ensure that the NATO headquarters have an equally good supply of chess players?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I am sure that there are many excellent chess players in NATO headquarters. As regards surprise moves, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is right and that they are not without precedent, if I may put it that way. I believe that what has been agreed in a telephone conversation between my right honourable friend and the Russian Foreign Minister will hold up. It is that there should be prior agreement with NATO countries before any more Russian troops are moved into Kosovo. There is an agreement to carry through the principles in the Security Council resolution for the shape of the peacekeeping force. Of course, the Security Council resolution makes it absolutely clear that there must be a unified chain of command and that the objective is to create a single, whole Kosovo under international administration.

These points of principle have been agreed between my right honourable friend and his counterpart. But it is amazing, in view of what has happened during the past 10 weeks, how well the relationship with Russia has stood up. No one denies that it has undergone a good deal of strain, but it is remarkable that, throughout, the relationship remained remarkably robust, that the channels of communication have been opened and that we are in a position to act as joint partners in a peacekeeping force.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that poker is a more challenging game than chess and it is wrong to portray the swashbuckling antics of the Russian forces as some kind of publicity stunt? The truth is that a lack of clarity has been exposed between their foreign and defence ministries, which should be of serious concern to the NATO commanders who have to deal with the Russian authorities. Can my noble friend say whether General Zavarzin disobeyed NATO orders when he pulled his troops out of Bosnia and whether the SACEUR knew that he was pulling out his troops and directed them to stay?

Secondly, can my noble friend say something more about the stability pact to which she referred? This morning I returned from the Western European Union in Paris where the gossip in the corridors was that there is a jockeying for position as to where the headquarters of the distribution of those funds will be located, perhaps in Hungary, Greece or wherever. Can my noble friend assure me that wherever the office is located, lessons will be learnt from Bosnia where there was a slow and not particularly well directed disbursement of funds and that a more effective disbursement will be the case with this new pact?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, my noble friend invites me to make a judgment on the relative merits in the context of chess and poker. Having always been hopeless at both, I find it difficult. Bridge has always been my forte, if at all. It is important that we do not dwell on this issue. The whole House knows that the Russians have not found this easy and that it has been a difficult few days for them, too. I have no doubt that within Russia there are considerable diplomatic strains.

My noble friend asked me to dissect the reasons for what happened. The honest truth is that I do not know what happened or whether someone disobeyed someone else. However, I suggest to my noble friend that while such questions are interesting they are not helpful. What is helpful is to build on the understanding of my right honourable friend and his counterpart, which was reached at the weekend, and to ensure that that understanding, with its three principal aspects, will be nurtured and cherished in order to ensure that a relationship with Russia continues to the full over this period.

My noble friend asked about the stability pact which was launched on 10th June. It is important because it provides for a forum for discussion for countries in the region on how to operate on a range of issues. We believe that European integration will be faster and more inclusive as a result. All participants were consulted when the stability pact ideas were being worked out. When countries have told us that they have concerns about the pact, we have made the EU presidency aware of those concerns.

I know that there are difficulties in working out the detail and no doubt we shall report further to your Lordships on that, but I believe that Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that the stability pact provides us with a real means of meeting the interests of all the participants who are covered by it.

The Earl of Carlisle

My Lords, I congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the selection and maintenance of their aim. But secondly, I congratulate the Royal Air Force on enabling us to go in with our ground forces and ensure that President Milosevic threw in his hand. Finally, I congratulate the ground forces who have moved in to secure peace.

The noble Baroness mentioned the interim administration. Will she assure us that it will use the Albanian leaders at all levels to assist in establishing peace in this war-torn area and encourage the restraint of extreme elements who are extremely embittered by what has happened to the local population?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, for those remarks. I would also wish to add our thanks to all our allies, as I am sure he would. I commented a moment ago, to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, upon the remarkable way in which our relationship with our friends in Russia has stood up. Within some countries, on occasions, relationships in NATO have been strained. There has been no secret about that; we have been quite open about it. Again, it is remarkable that the alliance has withstood so well over this period.

The noble Earl asked us to consider the political future of what is happening in Kosovo. We know that the Kosovo Albanians are a fractured group in many ways. Different groups speak for different parts of the ethnic community. We are encouraging them to realise the importance of rebuilding Kosovo and to move towards a process of free and fair elections.

It has been agreed that the political settlement will take account of the Rambouillet Accords. We have discussed such matters on a number of occasions in your Lordships' House. The mechanisms that are set up, the parliament or assembly, should reflect the views of all the ethnic groups in Kosovo. The OSCE are charged with the oversight of this. A great deal of work has to be done by them, including the setting up of an electoral register. It will not have escaped anybody's attention that a great number of the Kosovo Albanians have been robbed of their identity. There will be all kinds of matters of that nature to be dealt with including restoring people's identity papers to them, setting up electoral registers and ensuring that the whole panoply of the civil administration works. The OSCE will be looking forward to that and, I hope, to the elections, in due course.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, perhaps I may take the opportunity of congratulating the noble Baroness on the marvellous quick-witted cool with which, week after week, she handles questions on this very complicated matter. We admire her very much for that. I wanted to say that last week but I was unable to get in.

I have several questions for the noble Baroness which I hope she will take in good part, as she always does. First, during the original Statement which she repeated she mentioned that in some way we will rely on the support of the KLA. Is it not the case that the United Nations resolution requires, among other things, the disarmament of the KLA? Will that be achieved and has its disarmament started yet?

Secondly, while we are busy congratulating ourselves on a great victory, is it not the case that when this operation started, the idea was to remove Milosevic; but he is still there as large as life, indeed larger than he ever was? Finally, with regard to the political problems of the future, the noble Baroness very rightly pointed out that a great deal needs to be done in running any kind of democratic election when we do not even have an electoral register and when people's identities are very much in question following the atrocities triggered by the KLA in the first place.

Finally, is it not the case that the United Nations resolution specifically refers to the disarming of the KLA and that, therefore, the KLA's part in what the United Nations and NATO are doing must be pretty suspect—that is, until they have been properly disarmed?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, for his kind words. I know he has very strong feelings about this issue. He has been very kind in the way in which he has put his questions.

However, we were not congratulating ourselves upon a victory. The Statement of my right honourable friend makes clear that the time for congratulations will come only when we have ensured that the refugees are able to return to their homes in safety. We have not completed that job. We are only part of the way through—an important part, it is true, but we are nowhere near completion of the task we set ourselves among the objectives.

I remind the noble Earl that one of those objectives was not the removal of President Milosovic. Your Lordships have asked me on a number of occasions whether his removal was, I believe the words used were, "one of the war aims". I have told your Lordships on a number of occasions that, much as we believe that Serbia will be better off without Mr Milosevic, that is a matter for the people of Serbia. It has not been one of our war aims to remove him from power.

The noble Lord specifically asked about the question of the KLA. Perhaps I may quote from paragraph 15 of the SCR. It states: the KLA and other armed Kosovo Albanian groups [must] end immediately all offensive actions and comply with the requirements for demilitarisation as laid down by the head of the international security presence, in consultation with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. I know that the noble Earl is very concerned about this point. I hope that spelling it out in that way makes quite explicit to the noble Earl the requirements of the UNSCR as regards its demilitarisation.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Baroness for giving fuller and more regular Statements on Kosovo. I look forward to hearing more over the coming weeks, because it is not yet over. However, could she undertake to consult with colleagues about giving us a fuller humanitarian Statement? After all, the United Nations are just as accountable as our own Armed Forces and diplomats. We need, for example, to have an up-to-date account on how the UNHCR will manage to receive refugees both in neighbouring states and in Kosovo. Will it be the lead agency or will we see the office of co-ordination of humanitarian affairs play a more active role? The noble Baroness may not be able to answer that question now.

Finally, I also thank the noble Baroness for the statement of the new contribution from the Department for International Development. I know that will be warmly received by the refugees as and when it arrives in material form.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for his congratulations on the extra aid. I am sure we are all very pleased that the Secretary of State at the Department for International Development has been able to secure it.

The DfID produces each day a statement about the numbers of displaced people. I refer to those who have gone to the camps in Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania and, indeed, those who have been airlifted out of the whole region. I do not know whether the noble Lord has access to such statements but they are readily available. They are usually accompanied by an update of the latest humanitarian relief received not just from the United Kingdom but from all the countries which have been concerned to co-ordinate over humanitarian relief. I am sure that if the noble Earl contacts the DfID, he will be able to receive such updates.

However, I take the point that what he really wants is for us to have a fuller debate in your Lordships' House on that subject. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, also indicated his desire to have more of a debate about the whole of this issue, of which I am sure the humanitarian aid issues would be part. I do not have the authority at the Dispatch Box to say that I think that would be a good idea, but I am sure it will be sorted out by the usual channels in their usual efficient way.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House a little more about the setting up of a unified civilian authority in Kosovo? I understand that the United Nations resolution under which it will be set up is our sole legal basis for being there at all. Therefore, everything depends upon getting it right. How far has the planning proceeded in the construction of that authority? What relations are intended between it and NATO on the one hand and the Russian force on the other; whether it remains of a joke-size like now or becomes a more serious matter?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, the UN Under Secretary-General, Vieira de Mello, has been appointed by the Secretary-General as his special representative on Kosovo as an interim measure. There is no decision as to the long-term appointment, but an interim appointment has already been made.

The UN will lead, devolving certain tasks to other agencies who have particular expertise to ensure success in meeting its objectives. The European Commission will take the lead on economic reconstruction and, as I indicated a few moments ago, the OSCE will deal with civic society and the election arrangements. The head of mission will be accountable to the Secretary-General of the UN and to the Security Council. Therefore, the point made by the noble Lord about integrating others into the arrangements will be covered by the arrangements of reporting and accountability.

We believe that the key is to get the civil implementation structures established quickly so that the military can progressively hand over responsibility. I am sure that is an aim to which all your Lordships would adhere. The priorities are policing, which is a United Nations lead; secondly, the war crimes and we have already spoken about how vital it is that the ICTY personnel get into Kosovo quickly and they are already working with KFOR; and, thirdly, de-mining, which is a very important point and KFOR will clear mines and unexploded ordnance to the extent needed by the forces deployed throughout Kosovo. Our colleagues in the DfID will be assisting with the de-mining effort and working with the UN and NGOs. There is then the lead that will be taken by the UNHCR in the refugee returns.

Those are the main priorities that the civic implementation plan sets itself.

Lord Blaker

My Lords, if I understood the noble Baroness correctly, she suggested that it is not helpful for us to explore any further the question of the Russian seizure of Pristina airport. With respect, I beg to differ with her. That event holds potential for future trouble in view of the light that it throws on Russian attitudes and concerns. It is therefore important that it should be satisfactorily and quickly resolved.

Since this coup is entirely characteristic of President Yeltsin, and since the international agreements and the United Nations resolution do not spell out a clear role for Russian forces, it is surprising that this event was not anticipated by NATO. The noble Baroness said that our forces could not have gone in before the Russians arrived because the Yugoslav forces were still surrounding the airport. Is she suggesting that if we had landed a battalion of paratroopers on the airport at that time, they would have been forcibly resisted by the Yugoslav forces despite the fact that the international agreements had already been signed and the United Nations resolution passed? Or is she suggesting that the Yugoslav forces were in complicity with the Russian forces whereas they would not have been with ours?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I did not suggest for a moment that we should not hasten to resolve the issue of Pristina airport. Indeed, the Statement I repeated on behalf of my right honourable friend made it clear that discussions took place this morning on that very issue and that General Sir Michael Jackson is optimistic about resolving it. The issue that I suggested it was not entirely helpful for my noble friend Lord Ponsonby to air was why this happened in the first place.

I do not know the operational military instructions of the Russians. The noble Lord seems to suggest that we should have anticipated this happening. One might anticipate all sorts of things. I do not know whether or not it was anticipated. As I understand it, the airport was surrounded by VJ troops. The noble Lord suggests that perhaps we should have taken them on. But to put ourselves in so much confrontation was not necessarily the sensible course of action. The sensible thing was to do what was done; that is, to ensure that this was resolved properly and constructively through sensible discussion in the way that we have resolved all our other difficulties, not by possibly precipitating or provoking some kind of action.

This is an extremely delicate, difficult task in getting not only the NATO countries to co-ordinate over the KFOR, but ensuring that Russia too has the confidence to be part of KFOR. We very much hope that there will be more Russian troops, but the noble Lord understands that this is an extremely difficult task and must be undertaken with due diplomatic sensitivity.