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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the mandate does not entitle UNPROFOR or NATO to use force to stop one party against another. The mandate is absolutely clear. I believe that the noble Lord was most unfair in what he said. It is very easy to be an armchair critic of this highly complicated situation. It is not simple because one is not even talkingfor example, in the Bihac pocketof Bosnian Serbs fighting Bosnian Moslems; one is talking of a third group, a breakaway group, and of the complexities of the Serbs in Krajina. Indeed, the situation is continually changing. That does not make it easy to carry through the mandate in the first place.
Secondly, in no way have the Contact Group or the allies been giving in to the Serbs in the way implied by the noble Lord. There simply is no alternative to the Contact Group plan. That is why the role that Mr. Milosevic has begun to play is so important. I can say that we are certainly encouraged by the statement from the Bosnian Serb Assembly delegation supporting the Contact Group plan. It remains to be seen whether that view will be acceptable in Pale and acceptable to a larger number of the Bosnian Serb Assembly. However, that does not alter the fact that the Bosnian Serb leadership knows that it cannot return to normality until the war ends. That is why we are working so hard for a peace settlement.
I should point out to the noble Lord that anyone who had read the detail of the discussions which my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and Alain Juppé, and others, have had over the past five days, could not put the questions that he has just put to me.
Lord Ennals: My Lords, will the Minister accept my great satisfaction that she dealt as firmly as she did with what I thought was the grossly oversimplified interpretation of the situation presented by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie? Looking especially at the role of the UN, with which I obviously have a particular interest as an officer of the United Nations Association, perhaps I may say how glad I am that the Minister referred to the task carried out by Mr. Akashi who has absolutely, and with persistence, sought to find a way through a very complicated situation.
Bearing in mind the Minister's words about the possibility of imposing solutions on unwilling partnersa statement which seems to me to be absolutely accuratecan she confirm that the UN is not there in order to fight a war but to do what it can mainly by humanitarian means? Will the Minister condemn some of the statements made in the newspapers, which rather reflect what the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, said, suggesting that, somehow or other, it showed a failure of an organisation; namely, the United Nations or, for that matter, NATO? Such organisations simply cannot force people to do what they are not willing to do.
As regards the treatment of the Bangladeshi forces of UNPROFOR, will the Minister openly condemn the quite appalling behaviour of the Bosnian Serbs in treating them as hostages when, under very difficult circumstances, they have been acting in the name and in the duty of the United Nations?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, it is quite right that the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, should also pay tribute to Mr. Akashi who has a nearly impossible task. He has been at the forefront of seeking the release of those troops detained by the Bosnian Serb army. As I said, his intervention on behalf of Dutch and British troops has already been successful. We hope that he will very soon be successful in securing the release of others.
Of course we unequivocally condemn the holding of all military personnel or civilians by the Bosnian Serbs. That goes back to the situation nearly two years ago when we went in to try to help. There is absolutely no
There are far too many armchair critics in this country who think that they know best. As for some of the attacks in the media and by certain other people on General Sir Michael Rose, I have been appalled by what I have read. It is so far from the truth that it defies reason. Perhaps I may join the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, and repeat something that I said in a debate in the House on Monday. Where people are determined to go on fighting, it is very difficult to stop them until there is a break in that determination. What we hope we are seeing in the Bosnian Serb Assembly is a willingness to bring the fighting to an end and let the negotiation and the peace process really begin again.
Lord Monson: My Lords, in her reply to the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, the Minister expressed the belief that Russia was being helpful. However, does the noble Baroness agree that the Russian veto of a recent resolution condemning Bosnian-Serb aggression is an ominous sign? Does it not appear to indicate that Russia is now taking a blatantly partisan approach to the conflict and that it is effectively condoning Bosnian-Serb aggression?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, it is very easy to believe that the use of the veto by the Russians indicates such a mood. One fact that is quite clear is that the Russians are asking for much earlier consultation about events and about planning. We have taken that very much on board. I told my noble friend that, while we believe the Russians were being helpful in some ways, I could not go into the detail of how they were acting.
Baroness Strange: My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister tell us whether supplies have been getting through to the troops in Sarajevo? Perhaps I may also reiterate what has been said by noble Lords on all sides of the House; namely, how very proud and grateful we are of our British forces in the United Nations. While we are going about our normal business at this time of the year, buying turkeys and tangerines, we are thinking a great deal about those who are not able to do so.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, supplies do get through, but we had to suspend the airlift into Sarajevo on 21st November because neither party would guarantee the security of the aircraft. That remains the case today. I hope that we shall be able to secure guarantees from the parties; indeed, UNPROFOR and UNHCR are seeking to do so at this very moment. The United Kingdom provides some 20 per cent. of the airlift capacity into Sarajevo. UK aircraft run by my department and the Royal Air Force remain committed to the operation. We are at least in a situation at present where there are some supplies available. While the
Lord Hylton: My Lords, will the Government find a suitable opportunity to remind the Russians that the Croatians and the Bosnian Moslems are just as much Slavs as their Serb cousins and that a substantial proportion even of the Bosnian Serbs are opposed to Mr. Karadzic?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that that point has already been made. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary was able to spend quite a long while talking directly to Mr. Kozyrev and not one of those points was left out of the discussion.
Lord Whaddon: My Lords, the noble Baroness has rightly paid tribute to the constructive part played recently by President Milosevic. Perhaps I may also pay tribute to the balanced and delicate way that the Minister has acted in this most tricky situation. However, is it not most important that Britain should be seen to keep the spirit as well as the letter of any agreements that we make? Further, is the Minister aware that when the easing of flights to Belgrade was agreed in September by the United Nations, flights between Belgrade and Frankfurt, Zurich, Amsterdam and Paris were started within 10 days but that the flights from Belgrade to London have still not been restored, or certainly had not been a week ago? This is due to difficulties arising from a whole series of technical objections, such as the fact that the Serbs were not allowed to pay for their landing fees at London Airport. Can the Minister help to overcome those technical objections so that we are seen to be keeping the spirit as well as the letter of agreements?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Whaddon, for his kind comments. I agree with him that the spirit as well as the letter of our intention should be kept. I will look into what he said about landing fees at Heathrow, but I am not aware of the problem as he outlined it to your Lordships. I shall write to him.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, the noble Baroness said that we would use every means at our disposal in dealing with problems such as have happened recently in Bihac. Could she tell us whether General Rose is content with the level of forces which he has at his disposal and, if he is not, whether Her Majesty's Government would consider sending additional forces?
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