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Mr. Cook: Let us begin with the questions for which the hon. Gentleman managed to find time in his little speech. First, if there is any question of bombing, the monitors will be withdrawn. Secondly, it is non- negotiable for us that any force to which we commit British forces must have a tried, trusted and tested command structure. For us, that means a NATO command structure.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether Russia continues to oppose a NATO force. Russia's position throughout has been that it is willing to take part in a military presence if it is invited by Belgrade. He asked exactly when we would commence bombing Belgrade. I cannot think of anything more helpful to Milosevic than to spell out exactly when we might do so.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether this process has increased respect for Britain and the conduct of its foreign policy. I reported only on Sunday to all European Union Foreign Ministers, all of whom are in support of the Rambouillet process, and all of whom understand both the effort that went into it and the difficulty of securing success.

I turn to the hon. Gentleman's preamble. Remote though the prospect is at present that he will find himself in government, I am always tempted by the thought of his having two weeks in office, just to discover the reality of the problems of carrying out international negotiations. What he described was pure fantasy. Richard Holbrooke has already had a go at trying to twist arms. He produced the Holbrooke package in October, which we welcomed and supported. Since then, we have been seeking to build on it, and to improve it by working on areas that were missing from it, especially the question of the guarantee for the implementation of an agreement.

As far as I could tell from the hon. Gentleman's contrast of Rambouillet and Dayton, the only difference that he found was that Rambouillet was attractive and Dayton was certainly unattractive. I remind the hon. Gentleman that what happened at Dayton came as a result of several months of bombing in Serbia and the Serbian side then recognising that, for them, the military conflict

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was over. If the hon. Gentleman wants us to follow a model in which we achieve peace only after several months of bombing, I have to tell him that at present there are not many takers among his allies.

No, we have not let Milosevic off the hook and we have not let the KLA off the hook. Both are now confronted with having to come up to scratch on the agreement that they have made. Yes, there was an agreement at Rambouillet. That agreement was not perfect or complete--that is in the nature of international negotiation. However, as the Serbian side acknowledged, there was major progress towards substantial autonomy for Kosovo and, for the Kosovar side, an agreement that it could accept subject to consultation.

That justifies our efforts at Rambouillet; indeed, there was greater agreement than I predicted when we started. I did not predict that the process would be easy or end in triumph; I predicted that it would be difficult and that we would not necessarily get agreement. We have done so, and it would be helpful in pushing Milosevic and the KLA into abiding by that agreement if the hon. Gentleman recognised what had been achieved.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): After that rather sour performance from the Opposition Front Bench, would not the House have been better served by the lofty statesmanship of the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard)? The better view is surely: so far, so good. The agreement is not ideal, but it is far better than one might have hoped at the start of the process, and all involved must receive our congratulations on stopping something worse.

Is my right hon. Friend confident that the will exists on both sides of the conflict, among the Kosovar Albanians and the Yugoslavs, to prevent a substantial deterioration on the ground before 15 March? Did he get that message from the representatives at Rambouillet? What role is envisaged for the OSCE monitors after the eventual agreement?

Mr. Cook: It is recognised in the text that there will be a strong role for the Kosovo verification mission, particularly its head, as we implement the new constitution for Kosovo provided for by the documents. Indeed, the head of the mission will be responsible for nearly all aspects of civilian and political construction in securing agreement to them.

The verification mission continues to do vital work in seeking to make sure that the ceasefire is maintained, and by and large is successful in doing so where it is present. I regret that there are only 1,200 members of what should be a team of 2,000. One of the points that I agreed with my colleagues at the close of the talks is that we must consider how we can increase the pace at which we fill those remaining places.

My hon. Friend asked a grave question that goes to the heart of the conflict that we face in Kosovo. I have to tell the House that I did not receive assurances that I would regard with confidence about future conduct in the conflict. Both sides have to recognise their responsibility and they have to recognise that neither of them can win by conflict. It is in their interests to agree to the process that we have started and to accept the constitutional and political settlement on offer.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): I begin by acknowledging and applauding the efforts of officials and

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the Foreign Secretary, but I hope that he will forgive me if I strike a more pessimistic note than that contained in his statement.

Must we not properly acknowledge that the outcome of Rambouillet is inconclusive--we have only a provisional agreement on political structures, we have no agreement on the peacekeeping force and we have no peace in Kosovo, as events of the past 72 hours have eloquently demonstrated? Is not the position further complicated by the power struggle taking place within the KLA and the risks of provocation and retaliation to which the Foreign Secretary referred in his statement? Realistically, what physical steps can we take to prevent deterioration in Kosovo between now and 15 March?

Mr. Cook: I have been clear that the agreement is not a complete agreement--indeed, it is a partial agreement. However, I believe that that is better than no agreement at all. We did make progress at Rambouillet, but I am not pretending to the right hon. and learned Gentleman or to the House that we have completed that task.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is right to stress the importance of the process being able to continue when we meet on 15 March, in order to achieve an observance of what is now a grumbling ceasefire, without escalation. He asks how we can secure that. The first barrier to escalation is the verification mission. We are looking at how we can complete its numbers and make sure that it is brought up to full strength.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's second question concerned what other measures would then be available to us. The best measure that we have to secure compliance from Belgrade is to make it clear to Belgrade, as I have already done, that the NATO planes remain on alert, and that the order for Javier Solana to authorise their use remains in force. We are all clear within NATO that, in the event of disproportionate military action by Belgrade--if there was any repeat of the atrocities that have taken place in the past--that authorisation is available and could be used in those circumstances.

The Kosovo Liberation Army must also accept its share of responsibility for maintaining the ceasefire. Too often in the past, action has been initiated from the Kosovo Liberation side. We have made it plain to the Kosovo Liberation Army that we are well aware of the way in which it has broken the ceasefire. We will not allow ourselves to be trapped into ending up as the KLA's air force, as a result of provocation that it initiated.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield): Is the Foreign Secretary aware that for many people, including myself, the one outcome from the Rambouillet talks is that bombing has not begun? The most terrifying argument put from both sides of the House at one stage was that the credibility of NATO would be the justification for bombing.

Is the Foreign Secretary also aware that, whatever the outcome may be, if, without the authority of the Security Council, the United States and Britain or other countries bomb or enter a sovereign state without the consent of that state, that will be a breach of international law? If, as he said, quite rightly, the problem inside Yugoslavia cannot be solved by conflict, it certainly cannot be solved by the conflict being entered by people pretending to be the world's policemen.

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Will the Foreign Secretary further consider that, when one thinks of the problems affecting minorities such as the Kurds, the Palestinians and the people of East Timor, the position occupied by the American and British Governments is not really very credible?

Mr. Cook: There is no question of our entering Kosovo with military force in circumstances in which there is no peace agreement to police. We have made that clear repeatedly. We do not intend to fight our way into Kosovo. Unless we were clear about what we were going to do there by way of peace settlement, such an undertaking would be pointless.

Secondly, with reference to the Security Council, there was broad agreement at Rambouillet among all the members of the Contact Group that, in the event of a settlement, we would invite the Security Council to approve and endorse the settlement.

In the event that we are faced again with a humanitarian crisis as a result of excessive military repression in Kosovo--if, once again, we are faced with tens of thousands of refugees on the hillsides, or if, once again, we are faced with innocent civilians being executed at close range, with no suggestion that that was happening in fighting--I do not believe that my right hon. Friend's constituents or those of any other hon. Member would understand it if we did not respond.

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