Examination of Witnesses (Questions 274
TUESDAY 13 JULY 1999
COOK, MP, DR
PARRY, CMG AND
274. Secretary of State, may I, on behalf of
the Committee, welcome you and your two colleagues. On your right,
I understand, is Dr Emyr Jones Parry, who is the Political Director
and Deputy Under-Secretary of State, and on your left is Mr Tom
Phillips, Head of the Eastern Adriatic Department. Secretary of
State, we return to our series of regular meetings on Kosovo,
on which you have kindly briefed the Committee on the latest stages.
As you now know, the Committee hopes, probably towards the end
of November, to mount a full-scale inquiry into Kosovo, looking
back and looking forward, but until that time we shall rely on
these regular updates from you. Let me begin in this way: we have,
today, in Brussels, the reconstruction meeting and, clearly, there
will be pledged support for the reconstruction of Kosovo and the
Balkans as a whole. The one great question mark is how now we
deal with Serbia, which is led by an indicted war criminal. There
is, though, increasing signs of opposition activity, but at least
the working assumption must be that he will be there for some
time, and if he were to be replaced it is possible he would be
replaced by a similar individual. What is the scale and nature
of assistance which, in your judgment, we should now give to Serbia?
Do you rule in humanitarian aid to Serbia?
(Mr Cook) Yes, and I have never made
any bones about that. Obviously we would consider humanitarian
aid to assist with the humanitarian plight of the people of Serbia,
and we have always made it clear that our quarrel is not with
the people of Serbia but with their regime. You, yourself, of
course, Chairman, have already laid bare the fundamental problem
in dealing with that regime, and that is that it is headed by
an indicted war criminal.
It is our view that he should stand trial, like all indicted war
and we plainly cannot do business as normal with him. It also
goes further than that, insofar as we want to promote change within
Serbia, in that it is plainly not consistent with our interests
to do anything that enables Milosevic to claim credit with Serbians
for having secured aid and fresh hope for the economy. There are
many things that we can do in contact with others who might represent
a more progressive voice for Serbia to the outside world, but
the most useful message the international community can at present
give Serbia is that they cannot expect the international community
to assist in reconstruction so long as it is headed by somebody
who is indicted for war crimes.
275. Some of our European colleagues say that
it is reasonable to give some form of reconstruction aid, if only
because the economies of the Balkans are interlinked. If the infrastructure
damage to destroyed bridges and so on in Serbia were not to be
rebuilt it would have economic repercussions over the Balkans
as a whole, and be an impediment to the proper reconstruction
of the region. Do you rule out any form of infrastructural aid
(Mr Cook) First of all, can I say that I would not
accept there is any substantive difference between ourselves and
our major European allies on this question. I had a very useful
discussion among our major European allies in New York when I
was there a fortnight ago, and we have agreed to continue with
the Quint phone calls which we had almost daily during the conflict,
although at a less intense level, in order to make sure that we
maintain a common front and a common approach to reconstruction,
both of the region and of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia itself.
One of those will be happening tonight. Secondly, on the question
of what do I rule in or rule out, the position is quite clear:
on the one hand we would not resistindeed we would supportthe
assistance of the humanitarian plight of the peopleof Serbia.
On the other hand, we do not want to get into supporting Milosevic
in a way in which he can turn round and say "I have secured
agreement with the international community for massive reconstruction."
These are not, of course, compartments where it is very easy to
define a very clear break between the two. Undoubtedly there will
be grey areas, and we need to discuss among ourselves to make
sure we have a common approach. I am confident in that common
276. Do you believe the Danube should speedily
be reopened with the implications for assistance to Serbia?
(Mr Cook) The Danube, of course, is an important waterway
for many countries, not just for Serbia, for those upstream and
downstream. There is a view that we should make sure that the
Danube is available as a waterway, which does not necessarily
imply rebuilding the bridges but maybe it can involve making sure
it is navigable.
277. Foreign Secretary, when talking about Serbia
you are differentiating Serbia, I assume, within the Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia, from Montenegro.
(Mr Cook) Absolutely.
278. Therefore, Montenegro is in receipt of
immediate aid in terms of reconstruction.
(Mr Cook) We seek, wherever possible, to make a distinction
that is favourable to Montenegro. Throughout the conflict I repeatedly
stressed our support for the democratic forces in Montenegro,
and the very steadfast and courageous stand taken by the Government
of Montenegro in distinction to the Government of Belgrade. We
have repeated that commitment on every public statement we have
made since the conflict ended, and, as I have said, one of the
ways in which we can warn off President Milosevic from doing anything
malign in Montenegro is to make sure that every time we make a
statement on the region we single out Montenegro for our own special
favour and our special support. We are seeking, where we can,
to try and make sure that any economic measure that bears on Serbia
and aimed at the regime in Belgrade does not have an impact on
Montenegro. That is not a simple and straightforward issue, because
they are part of one common market, but for all that we are working
hard to try and find ways in which we can be supportive in Montenegro
without weakening our general stance in Serbia.
279. What is your assessment, Foreign Secretary,
of the political situation in Montenegro? Is there any substance
to reports that there are attempts to undermine President Djukanovic.
(Mr Cook) There are no two ways about it, Belgrade
would like to see Mr Djukanovic go. I do not think any observer
would have any doubt in coming to that conclusion. Indeed, to
be fair to Mr Milosevic, he makes no bones about it either, in
his public as well as private statements. Our impression, at the
present time, is that there is not an imminent threat. I do not
wish to sound any note of complacency here; Belgrade must know
we are watching carefully, we are alert and we would regard it
as a breach of the spirit of our agreement with Belgrade if they
were to take such a measure. Great Britain was very active, following
conversations between myself and President Djukanovic, in making
sure that when we reached the Military Technical Agreement it
required the troops in Kosovo to withdraw to Serbia, precisely
in order to prevent them being withdrawn to Montenegro and thereby
strengthening the VJ presence there. My belief is that the VJ
presence has declined since the conflict, with the demobilisation
of the reservists, so that immediate military presence in Montenegro
has come down somewhat, but it still remains very large.
1 Note by Witness: the correct term is "a
war crimes indictee". Back
Note by Witness: the correct term is "war crimes indictees". Back