HC Deb 10 March 1999 vol 327 c210W
Mr. Gapes

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what further preparations are being made for a possible NATO force in Kosovo. [75693]

Mr. George Robertson

NATO remains ready to lead an international force in Kosovo to help implement an interim political agreement. Should such a force be required, it must be ready to go into Kosovo as quickly as possible after an agreement. This means that we must have forces ready in the region.

The Government announced on 22 February 1999, Official Report, column 3, the deployment of some 2,225 personnel of 4 Armoured Brigade Headquarters and the Lead Armoured Battle Group to Greece and Macedonia, and enablers for the headquarters of Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps (HQ ARRC). On 26 February, the Government announced the deployment of the majority of the remaining equipment and personnel of 4 Armoured Brigade Headquarters and the Lead Armoured Battle Group. Additional engineering and support assets are also being deployed to provide necessary engineering infrastructure support: their deployment was planned as part of the overall force, but has been brought forward to cover a longer than anticipated stay in Macedonia. NATO has now decided to deploy advance elements of the HQ ARRC to manage the build up of NATO forces in Macedonia. The UK is the framework nation for this headquarters.

Together with national support elements and the British contribution to HQ ARRC, I expect the total number of British personnel in Greece and Macedonia by mid-March to be some 4,800. This figure is consistent with the overall British contribution of some 8,000 which I announced to the House on 11 February 1999, Official Report, columns 565–66. It is a substantial number, and clearly signals our resolution to support the efforts of the international community.