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Mr. Robertson: I welcome the hon. Gentleman's final comment. The whole House sends its good wishes and thoughts to those who are close to the conflict and those who, at this moment, may be in the line of danger, and he is right to speak out in that way.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that, although a lot of his questions are interesting, the answers would provide considerable information, not only to him and the House, but to those who might well be ranged against our forces now and in succeeding days. Therefore, in being reticent on certain subjects, I am not being discourteous to him or the House, but being sensibly prudent. I have given more information tonight than I have ever given before to the House of Commons so that it knows, as it goes into the Easter recess, what has been done.

I believe that most hon. Members recognise how much has yet to be achieved. There is no instant overnight knock-out blow that can be delivered. Some defence manufacturers might say that this bit of kit or that bit of kit is ideal in the circumstances, but modern conflict is not some sort of arcade game, in which you press a button and the enemy disappears. The fact is that we are up against somebody who is ruthless, merciless and unprincipled. He is engaged in systematic operations inside a tiny part of our continent and we have to stand against him. That will involve risks for many people in the area--for the population who have been driven from their homes, and for our armed forces and those of the other 18 countries of NATO. We must recognise that.

We have been successful in the air campaign so far. Of course, the problems with weather create complications. They would not create complications for Milosevic, because, to him, bombing through the clouds--bombing blind--using dumb bombs would be a simple exercise, without any scruples attached to it. It is different for us and it will remain different for us. We are not in the business of creating civilian casualties, but interested only in precision attacks on military installations.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the forces currently present in Macedonia, ready to be part of an implementation force if, as we all hope, a peace agreement comes about. There are currently some 14,000 NATO troops there, and that is the number that the force will remain at until we are ready to move to the implementation stage of an agreement. We all send our good wishes to them. I hope that, in the next few days, some of them will be engaged in helping with the refugee crisis.

There is no change to the view that we have taken on ground troops. The decision was taken by NATO--by the NATO military authorities: 19 chiefs of defence and the Ministers who supervise their decisions. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the announcement by Marshal Sergeyev, the Russian Defence Minister, about sending a

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certain number of the Black sea fleet through the Bosporus. The Bosporus is an international waterway and access cannot be prevented. The Russian ships are on the high seas and it remains to be seen what they will do, but they have the freedom of the seas, just as we have.

We have made clear our objectives in political terms: a situation that will allow the refugees to go back, and to rebuild their communities and their lives. That will necessitate having an international peacekeeping force to allow it to happen. Milosevic is not going to get away with ethnically cleansing that part of the former Yugoslavia and then claiming that it is partitioned for ever.

The hon. Gentleman states the obvious, but it is worth stating that this action is going to be long and difficult. We took it on knowing that it was important to do and the right thing to do, and that the only alternative was to stand back and wring our hands, as people were slaughtered, murdered and driven out of the country that they believed to be their home. Yes, it is risky--nobody in this House will face those risks--but the hon. Gentleman, the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife and I met some of the people who will be taking those risks: they expect us to do the right thing, and that is what we will do.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): I thank the Secretary of State for the opportunity to accompany him on Monday and meet some of those who are accepting in a matter-of-fact way risks that we here can only guess at.

Is the truth not this: that it is time now for steadiness and a calm determination to see these events through to the end? Does the Secretary of State understand that there is widespread support in the House for the summary rejection of the empty and cynical gesture made by Mr. Milosevic yesterday? Does he understand also that there is, if anything, even greater support for the robust reminder given today that those who are complicit at any level--military or political--in the hideous barbarity that is being enacted in Kosovo may pay for it by facing the war crimes tribunal?

As a condition for the cessation of bombing, the Secretary of State outlined the need for Mr. Milosevic to accept the deployment of troops on the ground. If Mr. Milosevic refuses to consent to that, he surely cannot, by withholding consent, exercise a veto over the deployment of troops on the ground if NATO considers that that is appropriate.

Mr. Robertson: I appreciate the right hon. and learned Gentleman's words of thanks about the visit on Monday. The visit was conducted not in our interests, but in the interests of serving RAF personnel, who appreciated the fact that the defence spokesmen from the three principal political parties had taken the time and the trouble to meet them and to learn what was happening. We all came away with nothing short of huge admiration for the skill, commitment, ability and sheer bravery of those who are flying the Harriers, and who will, from tomorrow, fly the Tornadoes from RAF Bruggen.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is right to highlight the risks involved, but he is also right to underline the determination that NATO expressed last

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night--and which we share--to ensure that the job is done. If this job is not done and if this sort of ethnic cleansing were to become the norm against which we could not stand, I, for one, would despair for the future of the continent for succeeding generations. Although last night's agreement was a crack in the wall of obstinacy that Slobodan Milosevic has erected and behind which he does his killing, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right to say that it was no real offer and was a great disappointment to the Russians. It was insulting to Mr. Primakov, who had to deliver the message.

We are absolutely committed on the war crimes issue. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have made it clear that we will publicise some of the information that we have about some of those who have committed war crimes as a warning to others who may be tempted to obey the orders of ethnic warfare. I hope that the open indictment of Arkan will end the television interviews that he seems able to give with impunity. Someone who is indicted for war crimes should be returned to The Hague, not given star billing on television or in the newspapers.

An international force must be sent to that country because I do not believe the refugees will go back without it. That is why those parts of the Rambouillet agreement that relate to an international force remain so important.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): I congratulate my right hon. Friend and the Government on the regular reports to Parliament since last Thursday, which have proved to be a model for our allies in their parliamentary relations. My right hon. Friend said that we had provided evidence to Judge Louise Arbour, the chief prosecutor at the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague, in respect of President Milosevic. It is clear that President Milosevic is guilty of ethnic cleansing on an horrific scale. He has broken every agreement that he has reached with NATO and with other allies. In those circumstances, we must recognise that he cannot be part of the solution.

Mr. Robertson: I thank my hon. Friend for his comments about the reports to Parliament. It is the principle behind what we do, and it is right that we keep the House informed and on side. I know that not all hon. Members agree 100 per cent. with what the Front-Bench spokesmen are saying. There is unease and anxiety, and that is shared equally by those who are in charge of the military. However, we must do what is right and what is necessary.

My hon. Friend made a point about Judge Arbour and the international criminal tribunal. It will be for Judge Arbour to decide whether an indictment is arraigned against any individual. It is not for any politician to decide who should be the subject of indictment. The process is fair and judicial. When the indictments are served, it will be up to the rest of the international community to deliver on them.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): Does the Secretary of State agree that it is important that the political track is kept running in tandem with the military track? Does he further agree that if anyone should have much more influence on the Serbs, it is the Russians? Will he confirm that the Foreign Secretary will continue to

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impress on the Russians that, if they want to be taken seriously in international affairs, they need quickly to achieve their aim with the Serbs?

Mr. Robertson: The hon. Gentleman is right on the first point. We must keep the political track running because only a political settlement will return peace and stability to that troubled part of the world. He is right to say that the Russians also have a stake in that. Out-of-control ethnic warfare in the Balkans is a danger to stability that is much closer to Russia than it is to those on the other side of the Atlantic, although NATO has accepted that challenge.

I am sure that the Russians were deeply unhappy with the offer that Milosevic made, which they took to Bonn last night. After all, they signed up to UN Security Council resolution 1199, which called for an end to the violence, withdrawal of the troops and a political settlement. I hope that they will continue to use what influence they have to try to tell that man that he must think again.


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