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Air Attack (Bosnia)

3.32 pm

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd) : With your permission, Madam Speaker-- [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order. Would hon. Members who are leaving the Chamber do so very quietly and rapidly ? We have an important statement from the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Hurd : With your permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement on recent events in Bosnia.

At 6.31 local time yesterday morning, six Galeb single-seater air-to-ground attack aircraft were identified by NATO airborne warning and communication system aircraft over Bosnia. A NATO combat air patrol consisting of two United States F16 aircraft went to intercept and investigate. At 6.35, the AWACS issued a warning to the six Galeb aircraft.

At 6.42, the NATO aircraft visually identified the planes. A minute later, the NATO pilots observed what they believe were bombs exploding in and near a factory. It is thought that the target was an ammunition factory near Novi Travnik. Between 6.42 and 6.45, further warnings were issued, and again no response was received. At 6.45, NATO aircraft shot down one of the violating aircraft, and in the next five minutes three more of those violating aircraft were shot down. The remaining two were reported as having flown into Croatian airspace, at which point the engagement was ended in accordance with the NATO rules of engagement for enforcement of the no-fly zone. There were later reports that the two aircraft were seen landing from the north at Banja Luka airport.

This was the first known violation of the zone by a formation of fixed-wing aircraft. The action was taken under the authority of United Nations Security Council resolution 781, which established the no-fly zone, and resolution 816, which authorised its enforcement and which was adopted unanimously by the Security Council. The House will have noted the unanimity of views on the incident during my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's visit to Washington. I discussed it yesterday with the Greek Prime Minister, the American Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister. Hon. Members will have seen statements by Mr. Churkin, the Deputy Russian Foreign Minister, that any party that violated the no-fly zone had to bear full responsibility for the consequences.

Those events and the reaction to them show that the parties should be in no doubt of our earnest in implementing decisions on Bosnia. We shall continue active work with the international community on how to build on the progress in Sarajevo and reach a negotiated settlement. I can tell the House that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the President of the United States of America have today announced an initiative to promote the reconstruction of Sarajevo in order to normalise life in the city. A joint British-American civil planning mission will be established to work with the city authorities in Sarajevo, with the European Union and with the United Nations to assess what is needed to restore public utilities in the city.

Meanwhile, the UN will be drawing up plans to assess the feasibility and the means of breaking the siege of other cities and towns in Bosnia, including Mostar, Vitez and


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Maglaj. That is in addition to the plans, of which the House already knows, to rotate the UNPROFOR contingent in Srebrenica and to reopen Tuzla airport to receive supplies of humanitarian aid. Reports are coming in from Moscow that the Bosnian Serb leader, Mr. Karadzic, has reached agreement with the Russian Foreign Minister on how Tuzla airport might be reopened with Bosnian Serb consent. If confirmed, that, too, would be a welcome step.

On the wider front, the Americans are telling us of substantial progress in the effort, which I support, to reach agreement among the Croats, the Bosnian Croats and the Bosnian Muslims. Those are all good examples of the concerted international effort now being made to extend the progress in Bosnia and to make the humanitarian effort more effective.

Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland) : I am obliged to the Foreign Secretary for that statement, which I called for yesterday. I believe that many people in the House will share my view that it should have been made yesterday.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that we believe that, by arming and dispatching six aircraft on a bombing mission, someone deliberately attempted to flout UN resolution 781, which established the no-fly zone over Bosnia ? The right hon. Gentleman was very careful in his statement not to identify the aircraft or those people who dispatched them. Is any evidence yet available to identify the aircraft that have been shot down, and therefore to lead to a conclusion as to who was responsible for that challenge to the authority of the United Nations in the no-fly zone ?

The action obviously was a flagrant breach of resolution 781 of the Security Council and, in connection with it, it is quite clear that the action taken by American F16s under the NATO command was fully justified by resolution 816 of the Security Council, which gave effect to the implementation of the no-fly zone resolution. The indisputable legality of the action to enforce the UN Security Council resolution is clear, and it has my support and, I believe, the overwhelming support of hon. Members.

Can the Foreign Secretary confirm reports from Moscow that the Bosnian Serbs have now apparently, very belatedly, agreed to the reopening of Tuzla airport ? If so, that would be good news. Has a date been set for the implementation of that decision by the UN ? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the apparent threats by the Serbian chief of staff, General Milovanovic, to attack aid convoys ? Has UNPROFOR made it clear that such action would not be tolerated ? Can the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House the current status of the humanitarian aid programme in Bosnia--air flights and convoys ? Does he accept that we support his recognition of the need to keep Russian support for progressive implementation of Security Council resolutions on safe areas, and other resolutions referring to the situation on the ground in Bosnia ? If such progress can be achieved and Russia continues effectively to secure Serbian compliance, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it should not be necessary for lethal air power to be used again ?

May I welcome the decision of the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister to launch an initiative for the reconstruction of Sarajevo, which is very good news ? Will the right hon. Gentleman give the


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House more details of that initiative, and will he confirm that it will involve not only America and Britain, but all members of the European Union ?

Mr. Hurd : I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's support for the action taken yesterday. It is not yet clear from where the six Galeb planes came, although it seems at least possible that it was from airports that are under the control of Serbs in Croatia. That is not yet certain.

In my statement, I mentioned the reports from Moscow about Tuzla, which I and the right hon. Gentleman have read. The United Nations has plans, which have been drawn up by General Rose, for reopening Tuzla airport. It remains to be seen how that will mesh in with whatever has been agreed in Moscow. I hope that it will not be too long before that happens.

Aid convoys are proceeding. Of course, each day, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and her representatives on the spot have to judge with our people--the Overseas Development Administration for example--how convoys can safely operate on a particular day, but aid is flowing, although not yet in the quantities that are needed and which we would like.

The right hon. Gentleman is right about the importance of keeping the Russians on board. That is why I telephoned Moscow twice yesterday about the incident, and I was glad of the response that I received. It is important--especially if there is continued progress on bringing the Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats together--that the Russians should continue to put the necessary pressure on the Bosnian Serbs, so the Russians' part in the matter is important.

I cannot give further details of the Anglo-American initiative on Sarajevo. I have set out the details of what has been agreed between the Prime Minister and the President. As the right hon. Gentleman said, the initiative is not exclusive--others are free to join it.

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater) : I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the speed with which he contacted the Russian authorities, and I note the obvious importance of that move at this sensitive time. Does he agree that whoever was responsible for the flagrant violation of the no-fly zone has received the clearest message, as the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said ? If anyone else seeks to embark on such a course, it is vital that they receive the same message. With the clarity of that message comes far greater hope for peace in the future.

Mr. Hurd : I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, and I agree. Whatever the exact origin of the planes, it was clearly a deliberate provocation and a test of the no-fly zone--a test which NATO passed.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber) : Whether they came from Banja Luka or Krajina, I am puzzled that we did not have the capacity to detect six aircraft lifting off the ground at much the same time. Perhaps the Secretary of State could explain. What is the policy on helicopters in the no-fly zone ? Are they being left alone ?

Like the right hon. Member for Copeland, I welcome the Sarajevo initiative. Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that it is being initiated on the assumption that Sarajevo will not become a divided city ?


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When the Secretary of State spoke to Prime Minister Papandreou, did he take the opportunity to say that many people think that Greece's attitude to Macedonia and its blockade is wholly unjustified ?

Mr. Hurd : The aircraft were identified quickly by the AWACS. It is not clear from where they started, but they were quickly identified and efficiently dealt with.

On future enforcement, as I said, the events were the first infringement of the no-fly zone by a unit or force of fixed-wing aircraft. Serb and Croat helicopters have certainly violated the rule before. Helicopters are much more difficult to deal with. One cannot be certain of their purpose--they may be carrying wounded or supplies, so it is less easy--but it is a matter for local judgment and discretion.

As for Macedonia, the former Yugoslav republic, I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I made these very points to the Greek authorities yesterday. The Greeks have anxieties and concerns which are very widely felt in Greek public opinion, but I said that, in the view of Greece's partners, that does not justify action that is almost certainly illegal in terms of trade, and which certainly diminishes the authority and influence of Greece as President of the EC.

Mr. David Howell (Guildford) : Does my right hon. Friend accept that his statement about NATO's swift resolve in enforcing UN resolutions is very welcome, and was much better made today than yesterday, as the facts become clearer ?

Will he reassure us that the same resolve will continue to be applied in the renaissance of Sarajevo, which is very welcome news, in lifting the siege on Srebrenica and other towns and, of course, in unblockading Tuzla airport ? Does he agree that Russian co-operation, which was welcomed yesterday and which continues to be welcome, is indeed what we want, as long as Russia is playing its full part in the international community, as a member of the United Nations and as part of the peacekeeping effort, and is not seeking to reassert influences from the distant past in ways which, in the distant past, disturbed rather than stabilised areas of the Balkans ?

Mr. Hurd : I agree with all my right hon. Friend's points, including the last. These are steps forward. There may well be reverses and disappointments in Bosnia in the future, but it is beginning to look as if we may be at the beginning of the end of what has been a nightmare.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield) : As this is the first time that NATO forces have ever been engaged in combat since the organisation was set up-- and set up for quite a different purpose--can the Foreign Secretary tell us whether the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Prime Minister were notified in advance of the intention to shoot down aircraft which had not been shot down hitherto in the no-fly zone ?

Is it not strange that, despite all the marvellous intelligence available, the Foreign Secretary cannot yet tell us the origin or nature of the aircraft that were shot down ? Is he aware that NATO is not the world's policeman and that for a British Foreign Secretary to speak of Russia being "kept on board"--when the responsibility rests with the United Nations of which Russia is a permanent member, and when Russia has a much closer interest in the Balkans than the President of the United States whose aircraft were engaged--is clearly not a matter that can be


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brushed aside as if this were a western action to maintain peace on behalf of the United Nations, whose Security Council was never consulted specifically on the military action ?

Mr. Hurd : The right hon. Gentleman has not been following this matter with his usual care. NATO was acting within the framework of United Nations Security Council resolution 781, which established the no-fly zone, and resolution 816, which authorised its enforcement and which the Russians supported.

Therefore, the line of authority is very clear--from the Security Council, with a proper vote and proper support, unanimity--through a NATO decision authorising action. In these situations, one cannot hang about while everyone is consulted. Either the planes, which were rapidly identified and were bombing a target on the ground, are dealt with effectively or they are not. There has to be authority ; there has to be a framework of law. They were in place and NATO took effective action.

Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West) : Will my right hon. Friend tell us a little more about the precise nature of the relationship of Russian troops to the United Nations command and control systems in the Balkans ? Does he agree that the closer the relationship between Russian, French and British troops in the policing of the operation, the better ? Has he had positive signals to that effect from contact with his counterparts in Russia ?

Mr. Hurd : Yes indeed ; those are Russian troops that have been in Croatia under UN command for some time, and they are now in Bosnia under UN command. They are in exactly the same position under the same authority as are the British troops in Bosnia. They are under UN command.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : Are Russian motives utterly compatible with those of NATO ?

Mr. Hurd : One has to judge the tree by its fruits, and the Russians' actions in the past few weeks, first in Sarajevo, and again yesterday in the way in which they responded to the incident, have been positive and helpful. Of course we cannot take it for granted that there will be no disagreements in the future, but in the past two or three weeks, their co-operation has been very helpful.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is no use talking tough unless one is prepared to act with comparable toughness, and that on this occasion NATO has done both, when put to the first real test of whether it is prepared to take military action in support of United Nations resolutions ? My right hon. Friend has not told the House where the American aircraft flew from. I presume that they came from an aircraft carrier, but will my right hon. Friend confirm that, as Italy is a member of NATO, the Italian Government are perfectly happy for Italian air bases to be used in support of NATO operations ?

Mr. Hurd : Yes, of course ; the answer to my hon. Friend's second question is yes. Those arrangements were made and completed in great detail, with the full co-operation of Italy as a member of NATO. I am sorry, but I cannot remember my hon. Friend's first question.

Mr. Colvin : I asked for confirmation that there was no point in talking tough unless one was prepared to act tough.


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Mr. Hurd : The House knows, and I think that it agrees, that in this country we are not in favour of talking indiscriminately of military action as though it could bring peace. We know that it cannot, and that is why, as I have described, the peace effort has to go ahead. However, we have judged that, for certain measured purposes, the use of armed force is necessary, and one of those is in order to respond to infringements of the no-fly zone.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : I welcome the fact that decisive action has at long last been taken to implement United Nations resolutions in Bosnia. Can the Secretary of State say more about what action will be taken to give proper protection to the so-called protected areas ? Will he also stifle any prospect of a unilateral withdrawal of UNPROFOR forces from Bosnia in the foreseeable future ?

Mr. Hurd : There has never been any question of British troops being withdrawn unilaterally from UNPROFOR. It is clear that their presence and that of those serving alongside them in UNPROFOR will be needed, at any rate for the time to come.

On the hon. Gentleman's first point, I mentioned Tuzla and Srebrenica. I also mentioned Vitez, which, although it was not one of the original safe areas, is still to some extent under siege. I mentioned Mostar, too. None of those is exactly the same as Sarajevo, and that is why what the French and British are trying to achieve in New York is for the Secretary-General to provide specific plans for the relief of each of those places.

Sir Jim Spicer (Dorset, West) : My right hon. Friend will have noticed a certain unease in the House about the Russian operation involving Tuzla. Of course everyone will welcome the reopening of the airport, but can my right hon. Friend confirm that the Russian forces in Bosnia are working directly under the United Nations, and that the UN command would have known about the initiative on Tuzla before the Russians entered into it ?

Mr. Hurd : I mentioned the plans that Mr. Akashi and General Rose, on behalf of the UN, have already made for the relief of Tuzla, and I mentioned the need to mesh those in with whatever agreement may have been reached in Moscow in the past few hours. Clearly that will mean a UN operation, and the co-operation of the Serbs and of the Bosnian Muslims will be needed if the airport is to be opened.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : Is the Foreign Secretary aware that some of us are profoundly uneasy about what has happened ? Is he saying that, whatever President Yeltsin has said, the Russian Parliament and the Russian military have agreed to all that ? We are also uneasy because the Greek Foreign Minister has said that what happened was unnecessary. It seems to some of us that those who know most about the subject are the most concerned and uneasy.

Mr. Hurd : The hon. Gentleman's question, like the question asked by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), would have been apposite if the Russians had criticised what was done. Those two questions seem to have been produced by autopilot ; the situation is not as those who asked them expected.

The Russians have made it clear--Mr. Churkin made it clear to me on the telephone and then publicly--that, if it


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turned out as it did turn out and the no-fly zone had been violated by a unit of fixed-wing aircraft, those who launched that unit had to accept the consequences. That is exactly our point of view. I spent a long time with the Greek Foreign Minister on that subject yesterday, and I do not think that, at the end of the day, he disputed the conclusions of NATO.

Mr. Harold Elletson (Blackpool, North) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the recent decision of the Russian Government to send 800 troops to Bosnia marked a major triumph for British diplomacy during the Prime Minister's recent visit to Moscow ? Will he assure the House that, in the current dangerous and escalating circumstances, any further initiatives in Bosnia will be carefully co-ordinated with the Russian Government ?

Mr. Hurd : The Prime Minister urged the Russians in Moscow two weeks ago to do their utmost to influence the Serbs. The Russians told him on that occasion that they were willing to send troops. I do not agree with every statement of Russian foreign policy. I discussed that in Moscow recently with Mr. Kozyrev and with Mr. Grachev, the Defence Minister. When one considers what the Russians have said and done in respect of Bosnia in the past few weeks, I believe that it is positive and that it justifies our keeping in close touch with them, as we are doing.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Does not it seem strange that the Foreign Secretary, even at this stage, cannot tell us where the planes came from and who was responsible for them, especially taking into account the fact that the AWACS planes are capable of spotting almost anything on the ground ? Is it not a case of diplomatic blindness ? If mistakes may be made at that level with all the technology and equipment at hand, if the war begins to escalate, what may happen if we become more deeply embroiled in the war ?

Mr. Hurd : That seems to be an autopilot question, which seems to stem from the proposition that there was a great deal of doubt. Those Galeb planes were identified bombing a factory in the Croatian part of Bosnia. Therefore, before they started bombing, they were quite clearly infringing the no-fly zone. The Security Council authorised that no-fly zone and authorised member states to enforce it, and that is what was done.

Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as the Yugoslav aircraft industry has produced more than 150 of those Galeb aircraft, that many are still operating and that we do not know quite where they are operating, it is important that NATO has good intelligence about who is operating them ? Bearing in mind that infringement of the no-fly zone, would he consider further restrictions of air movement of aircraft from the different warring factions over the former Yugoslavia ?

Mr. Hurd : There is no doubt in anybody's mind that the planes were operating in the Serb cause. Whether they originated from a part of Croatia occupied by Serbs, or from Serbia, or from a part of Bosnia occupied by Serbs, is an interesting but secondary matter, in view of what they were doing and of the rules of international law.


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Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles) : Is not the key point the fact that, in the past two months, we have seen more progress than in the previous two years in bringing an end to a conflict which has already claimed almost 200,000 lives and created millions of refugees ? Looking ahead to the wider peace process, which the Foreign Secretary mentioned, will he reconfirm that the Government's position is still not to recognise the results of ethnic cleansing or any changes of borders which are brought about by force ?

Mr. Hurd : It is clear--I think that it is common ground to everybody, even the Bosnian Serbs--that a negotiated settlement must start with a substantial Bosnian Serb withdrawal, from perhaps up to about a quarter of the land which they now occupy. That is what David Owen and Mr. Stoltenberg accomplished on HMS Invincible and since. The Americans are carrying that forward, to see whether they can proceed to that position by an agreement between the Croats and Muslims. If they can, well and good.

The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right : the Serbs cannot expect to hold on, by force of occupation, to all the land that they occupy at present.

Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the demonstration of resolution on the part of the United Nations and NATO is thoroughly to be welcomed ? Does he also agree that the positive steps forward to which he referred are a direct result of, and thoroughly vindicate, our recent decision to pursue violations of UN resolutions in Bosnia with greater vigour ?

Mr. Hurd : Various things have come together for good. Undoubtedly, the NATO decision was part of that. Undoubtedly, the leadership of General Rose on the ground is part of that. Undoubtedly, the recent Russian action is part of that. The much more intensive American diplomatic action is very welcome, because it shows all concerned that the Americans are not hanging back. Like the Europeans, they believe that, at the end of this, there must be a negotiated peace, because there cannot be a military victory for anyone.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) : Can the Foreign Secretary tell us what representations the Prime Minister has made to President Clinton about the involvement of United States ground forces in helping the humanitarian effort and a peace settlement for Bosnia ? Can he give an assurance that we have made it clear to the United States that any future action by US military aircraft must be strictly in accordance with the decisions of the Security Council of the United Nations, and that there cannot be any unilateral assistance on one side or the other in this civil war ?

Mr. Hurd : That is the whole basis on which the Americans have been operating, and on which the two F16s operated yesterday.

As to the presence of American ground troops, President Clinton made it clear last year that the United States would be willing to help with troops on the ground once and if there were an agreed settlement which all the warring parties were implementing. That stage has not been reached.

I have told the House about the agreement to rebuild civilian services in Sarajevo, which the President and my right hon. Friend have reached. Obviously, that will


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involve the active American participation of experts in rebuilding the city, and that is a forward step which the House will welcome.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring) : What my right hon. Friend said about Greece will be widely welcomed. Can he confirm that he will do everything in his power to persuade the Greeks to back away from a confrontation with Macedonia--a confrontation which would only aggravate the conflict in the Balkans ?

Mr. Hurd : As I said, the Greeks have genuine anxieties--if one goes there and listens to Greeks of many different political persuasions, one understands that. They believe that the integrity of Greece is threatened by the constitution, the flag, the name and so on of this small state to their north. I do not agree with that, and Greece's other partners do not agree with that, but we must reckon with that fact.

What needs to happen is the withdrawal of these measures--which are illegal and will prove very expensive for Greece, as well as for the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia--and continued discussion under the auspices and chairmanship of Mr. Cyrus Vance to resolve these questions and issues between Greece and her northern neighbour.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian) : In view of the serious situation in Bosnia that the Secretary of State has described, how can he justify the redeployment of British UNPROFOR troops away from central Bosnia to support the action in Sarajevo ? Will the British Government now respond positively to the request from the United Nations commanders on the ground, including General Rose, for the deployment of extra British UNPROFOR troops ?

Mr. Hurd : The Coldstreams were redeployed in Sarajevo because that is what General Rose wanted, and they have done an invaluable job there. It is for the United Nations to redeploy forces under its control. In this case, we readily agreed that, in the circumstances of last week, the Coldstreams were needed in Sarajevo.

It would be excellent if other countries came forward with troops, which could increase the resources available to UNPROFOR and General Rose. We have provided, and are willing to provide, extra specialist help as he requires it. When one is thinking of substantial military units, we believe that the call should go principally to those who, unlike the French, ourselves and one or two other countries, are not responding substantially already.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax) : Does the Foreign Secretary accept that the action might put our aid workers and troops in more danger ? Has the right hon. Gentleman taken into account the recent history of Russia, which shows that President Yeltsin might not be in total control in the near future ? Might not the action lead to further rises in the nationalism that is worrying everyone so much ? Should not the American President at least commit troops and aid workers to face the same dangers as he expects those of other countries to face ?

Mr. Hurd : The American President has made his position clear. Obviously, the greater the American involvement on the ground as well as in the air and in diplomacy, the more America's allies will be pleased. Of


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course, the hon. Lady is right to say that there is a risk. If our aid workers and troops wanted to avoid risk, they would stay at home.

Mrs. Mahon indicated dissent .

Mr. Hurd : The hon. Lady cannot buck that point. What Government must do--this puts us in a different position from Opposition politicians-- is weigh the risks. We have the power to put the lives of service men and aid workers at risk, and we should use that power only when we are clear that the likely benefits outweigh the risks. We are so clear at present.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) : Following the question from my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald), does the Foreign Secretary agree that the incident underlines the importance of intensifying the effort to find a peaceful, and, above all, stable, long-term solution ? What mechanism does the right hon. Gentleman consider to be the most appropriate to try to find such a solution, and what role does he see in the longer term for Lord Owen and Mr. Stoltenberg ?

Mr. Hurd : The role that the UN and the European Union have given David Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg remains as it is. When a negotiated agreement is eventually built brick by brick, their names and proposals will be a part of that building--I do not doubt that. I have reported on what the Americans are attempting to do, and the House knows what the Russians are attempting to do. The European Union will meet to discuss the matters again next Monday. There is no doubt that the efforts of all those I mentioned are now moving together in a way that was not always true in the past. If we can continue that impetus, we may be able to continue the progress.

Mr. Malcolm Wicks (Croydon, North-West) : Given that the recent and determined UN action must already have had the wonderful effect of saving many innocent lives in Sarajevo, does the Foreign Secretary now accept that equally determined action two years ago would have saved the lives of many thousands of innocent people in the former Yugoslavia ? Does he now accept the ancient lesson of history that appeasement can never be supported and can never be successful ?

Mr. Hurd : We have been saving lives in central Bosnia month after month. The hon. Gentleman may be referring to the arms embargo. I believe that if the embargo had been lifted, the war, instead of dying down, would have blazed up, and perhaps spread to other countries. I do not believe that that would have been a remedy. If the hon. Gentleman was thinking of a massive armed intervention on the ground, he should be aware of what that might have led to. If he believes that action from the air could have produced a peace settlement, he is wrong. Action from the air can produce certain clear results, including the defence of UNPROFOR, maintaining the no-fly zone and getting heavier weapons removed from Sarajevo. We carefully worked out those things. We measured the risk against the benefits, and we in NATO decided to take the risk in those areas. To suppose in a lordly sort of way that there were options for the use of force a long time ago


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which could have saved lives, rather than killed more people, is to assume something that is far from being proven.

Mr. Colin Pickthall (Lancashire, West) : While the opening of Tuzla airport will be important, does the Foreign Secretary agree that it would be even more useful to open up the northern route into Tuzla in north central Bosnia ? That is the spur from Zupanja to Tuzla which leaves the Zagreb-Belgrade highway.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in a couple of weeks, a pan- European convoy with large contingents from Britain will try to get through to Tuzla along that route ? The Bosnians in Tuzla do not understand why that route--which is non-mountainous, unlike the southern route--has not been opened for aid convoys. Will the Foreign Secretary look at that and undertake that either himself or one of his hon. Friends will have talks with the Workers Aid for Bosnia group which is forming a convoy in the near future ?

Mr. Hurd : It is essential that the convoy should proceed in close contact with the UN and the ODA. Most of the relief that is getting into Tuzla has come by road through Serb-held lands. We believe that the quantity is inadequate. That is why it is important to open the airport.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East) : United Nations officials have confirmed that, since last October, there have been more than 1,000 violations of the no-fly zone by Serbian, Croatian and Muslim aircraft. Will the Foreign Secretary explain clearly to the House why this violation provoked a NATO attack ? Was it because either NATO or the United Nations had confirmation that the planes were involved in a bombing attack, or because it was the first occasion on which more than one fixed-wing aircraft violated the no-fly zone ?

Mr. Hurd : The second.

Ms Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) : Following the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Wicks), which the Foreign Secretary did not answer exactly in his normal manner, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that Sarajevo is still under siege ? It is important that that point gets across. It comes across that somehow Sarajevo has been saved. While I welcome what has happened there, it is clear that people cannot leave that city, and they are under siege. What measures will be taken to improve the position ?

Mr. Hurd : The Bosnian Government have not encouraged people to leave Sarajevo. It is partly under


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siege. There is an airlift. Some supplies get in, but not enough. The civilian life of the city is still to a large extent paralysed. That is why we, with the French and the US, have urged the UN to appoint a commissioner to work alongside General Rose and Mr. Akashi to restore civilian life. That is why the Anglo-American agreement that I have just announced takes the form it does.

We are not talking just about Sarajevo : other places are under siege. Mostar has been under siege by the Croats. Vitez has been under siege by the Bosnian Muslims. Each is a different area, with different participants, difference hindrances. Therefore, different remedies are needed. That is what is being worked out.

Mr. John Austin-Walker (Woolwich) : I share the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West. In one of his responses, the Foreign Secretary said that the Serbs should not be allowed to hold on to "all" of the land that they had gained by aggression. Why did he say "all" and not "any" ? If borders are to be violated as they have been, what assurances can he give the people of Albania following recent violations of the border there by the Serbians ?

Mr. Hurd : The hon. Gentleman speaks as if we were dealing with a simple invasion of Bosnia by the Serbs. Serbs live in Bosnia. We are talking about what is the fair share to be retained by Bosnian Serbs so that they continue to live in their country. That is the question.

The answer worked out is that the Bosnian Serbs need to withdraw from about one quarter of the land which they have seized. Bosnian Muslims should have approximately one third, and that is what they have agreed. The Bosnian Croats should have 17.5 per cent. Those are not absolute figures ; they are part of the negotiations now taking place. What is at issue is not so much the total proportions as the quality and nature of the land--which towns, which villages--that should be in each category.


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