HC Deb 05 December 1985 vol 88 cc348-9W
Mr. Andrew MacKay

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether any progress has been made in the 37th round of the mutual and balanced force reduction talks in Vienna.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The head of the United Kingdom delegation to the mutual and balanced force reduction talks (MBFR) in Vienna has today presented a new Western proposal to the East. Britain has played a key role in formulating this proposal which takes up the concept of a time-limited agreement involving modest reductions of US and Soviet troops put forward by the East in its proposal of 14 February, and builds upon the areas of agreement which already exist between the two sides. The main features of the new Western proposals are as follows:

  1. (i) initial reductions of 5,000 US and 11,500 Soviet troops;
  2. (ii) a subsequent collective commitment by NATO and the Warsaw pact and by the USSR and the United States not to increase their forces within the reductions area for three years;
  3. (iii) a package of associated measures to allow for the monitoring of overall compliance with the agreement and to verify force levels of the participating countries as exchanged following initial reductions.

For many years, prior data agreement has been the principal stumbling block to progress in Vienna. By offering to accept reductions and a subsequent no-increase commitment without insistence upon prior agreement on data between the two sides, the West is making a major effort to take the Vienna negotiations forward. I hope that the East will now respond in a similar vein.