HL Deb 20 October 1999 vol 605 cc1096-7

3.3 p.m.

Lord Kennetasked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their view of proposals to legitimate the former Kosovo Liberation Army and to make it the national army of Kosovo.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

My Lords, we would not support any plans to perpetuate the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). We support the international community's efforts to demilitarise and transform the KLA. Part of that process is the establishment of the Kosovo Protection Corps. That will be a civilian emergency service agency, run by the UN Mission in Kosovo and supervised by KFOR. It will have no role in law enforcement. It is not an army-in-waiting or a national guard for Kosovo.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, although it is reassuring to hear that the protection force will come into being, will it be large enough, firm enough, mobile enough and so on to cope with a KLA which has now declared itself to be the national provisional government? The KLA is taking over towns and villages and expelling Serbs, gypsies and almost everybody else, which was not the idea when we took its part in the first place.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble Lord's description of what is happening at the moment in Kosovo. It is clear that there is a real need to restore civil society. The KPC is an agency that will be used for that purpose. Few people believe that this is an easy challenge to overcome, but the KPC will make a considerable contribution to it.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, can the Minister confirm that a police force is being trained in Kosovo? Can she also say whether that police force will include Serbs and Albanians who will be trained to work together?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

My Lords, I can confirm that. It is extremely important that any reconstruction programme involves all parts of the Kosovan community. Part of our hope and aspiration is that we shall find a medium through which all participants can play a part.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I welcome the Minister's reply, but can she say a little mare about the areas of Kosovo where the KLA has played a part in the driving out of some minority groups? There is some concern in the House, in particular about what has happened to Romanis and to Serbs who still live in Kosovo.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

My Lords, I do not have specific details in relation to that matter today. However, I undertake to write to the noble Baroness to answer her question.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, can the Minister assure the House that there is no question of revising or annulling the Security Council's resolution which required the demilitarisation of the KLA?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

Absolutely, my Lords. The KLA has complied with all the conditions that have been laid on it. Of course, we cannot guarantee that absolutely every cache of arms has been discovered or disclosed because extremists will always find a way. However, we can assure the House that the KLA has complied with all the conditions that have been set.

Lord Whaddon

My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the report from the Macedonian news agency that Albania is to open an embassy in Kosovo? Does she think that that will help or hinder a peaceful settlement?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

My Lords, I must confess that I am not directly aware of that. However, one can see that any rapprochement should be encouraged.

Lord Judd

My Lords, my noble friend has said that the internal security force will be accountable to the UN administration. Does she not agree that any security arrangements, internal or external, should be accountable as soon as possible to political institutions within Kosovo and to the Kosovar people themselves? Can she assure the House that the Government are doing everything possible to promote the circumstances in which genuine, free elections can take place in Kosovo before long?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

My Lords, I can assure the House that all the efforts of the international community are directed towards re-establishing civil society in an appropriately cohesive way in Kosovo and maintaining the instruments of good government.