§ Mr. Alton
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will assess the implications for British interests of the expansion of the ports of Massawa and Assab in the Red sea, currently being used by ships of the Soviet Indian ocean fleet.
§ Mr. Stanley
The main facilities used by Soviet naval vessels in Ethiopia are at Dahlak island. Massawa and Assab have been visited only infrequently by Soviet warships, but are used by Soviet merchantmen and naval auxiliaries. An expansion of facilities at those ports has not yet commenced, but, if undertaken, is unlikely to have major adverse consequences for British defence interests given the facilities already available to Soviet naval vessels in the vicinity of the Red sea.