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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the threat of air strikes has been enormously effective. It has brought President Milosevic to the point of making an agreement the basis of which seemed unattainable even some two or three months ago. I am as happy as anyone in this House that that threat has been averted, albeit temporarily until a further meeting of NATO on 27th October. We can all rejoice in the fact that the air strikes are not taking place and that there is the possibility of a peaceful settlement.

The noble Lord makes the point with considerably more authority than I can in regard to the Yugoslav national personality and the possibility of hardening support. It is clear that President Milosevic is only too aware of how far he has had to back off as a result of the threat of NATO air strikes in so far as he has dealt with his own local media in the way that he has. He is not willing to have the full extent of his backing off made evident to the people in Belgrade and elsewhere.

The noble Lord also asked which countries my right honourable friend will visit. I understand that he is leaving this evening and is to visit Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia.

Lord Judd: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the British Government, with their determination and leadership, deserve a great deal of congratulation for what has been achieved so far? Does she also accept that many of us in this House will wish to express our profound good will to the verifiers as they undertake their dangerous and exacting task? Can my noble friend say a little more to the House about the further resolution to support the operation which is being sought from the United Nations? Surely it is imperative that the Russians are brought on board. Were the Russians to dissociate themselves from the resolution, let alone veto it, the authority of the operation would become questionable in the eyes of some around the world.

Secondly, I understand that for security reasons my noble friend cannot go into details, but does she agree that now the presence on the ground is so extensive it is essential that there is a readiness to put a military presence on the ground, if need be? The presence of unarmed civilians going about their work in such large numbers could become a complicating and inhibiting factor for the exercise of air intervention.

Finally, and perhaps most important, can my noble friend assure us that, with the extreme conditions of winter approaching, which she so well described, and the vulnerable position of these wretched people in their flimsy accommodation, we are satisfied that, should

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they not feel able to return to their homes, alternative arrangements are in hand to ensure that they receive all possible support and protection, not just against the enemy but against the winter?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his congratulations to the British Government. I shall ensure that they are conveyed to those of my colleagues who deserve them, not only Ministers but the many senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials who have striven night and day to ensure that we have agreements which have at least taken us forward. I shall not make any great claims or sound complacent. I believe that your Lordships have understood the significant worries that must remain in dealing with President Milosevic. This exercise has been remarkable for the amount of contact, co-operation and partnership that Her Majesty's Government have had with other groups, including the contact group, OSCE, NATO and the United Nations. We are dealing with a very complicated set of agreements and understandings brokered in a number of different fora.

The noble Lord raised the issue of the further resolution. I believe that I have said all I can about that. The wording is under discussion in New York today. It will, we hope, go as far as possible to reflect the Holbrooke agreement in as robust language as possible. It is extremely important that it commands the widest possible support from colleagues in the United Nations, and that includes our Russian colleagues.

The noble Lord talked about what he believed to be the essential element of ground forces. It is important to remember that the verifiers are there to verify and monitor; they are not there to enforce the agreement. That is why there is the suspension of the ACTORD until 27th October. At that point a further decision will be taken in NATO on the basis of whether enough progress has been made with the undertakings so far entered into by President Milosevic.

My noble friend asked about the extreme conditions of winter. We have been overwhelmingly conscious of the terrible humanitarian disaster which would have been visited on some 50,000 Kosovars who have been sheltering in the hills and countryside had there not been some kind of ceasefire and the possibility of returning to their homes. There is some limited evidence that a return has started. It is very early days; we are talking about only two or three days into the agreement. We shall monitor the position carefully over the next few days. The aid workers, those of the UN, the Red Cross and others, have been able to start their invaluable work in ensuring that they bring what relief they can to displaced persons in Kosovo. It will, of course, be very important that the monitors are able to continue to see that the aid gets through to those who need it. The importance of averting that humanitarian disaster was the basis on which NATO looked at the possibility of air strikes.

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister can help further those of us who seek to understand what will constitute compliance and what

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will constitute breach. I believe that there is general appreciation of the point she made about the sensitivity of NATO contingency plans for extraction; I certainly would not expect those to be made public. However, some of us agree with the point raised by my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby about the publication of the agreements. I have difficulty in knowing exactly what is the Holbrooke agreement and whether such a piece of paper actually exists. We are told that we cannot have the Hill proposals, which I would have thought were about political arrangements. I confess I have difficulty in understanding why they have to be secret.

I wonder whether the Minister can clarify the detail of what is contained in "the agreement", whatever that constitutes: first, with regard to the jurisdiction of the international criminal tribunal and whether an agreement by President Milosevic to accept the jurisdiction of the tribunal and to allow investigators, prosecutions and indictments is incorporated in that agreement and therefore would be incorporated in a new Security Council resolution; and, secondly, what the criterion will be for breach regarding the withdrawal of military forces and police.

The phrase used in Resolution 1199 was,

    "the withdrawal of security units used for civilian repression".
I am reliant on a commentary by NGOs. The commentary says:

    "The agreement allows some 19,000 Serbian military and police forces to remain in Kosovo".
I do not know whether that is a translation of what has been described as the March levels. I hope that the Minister can understand that some of us have difficulty with regard to knowing what is a breach. Can she clarify what will be in the Security Council resolution, or what the Government would like to be in the Security Council resolution? She made a point about the British Government not owning these documents. Journalists appear to have access to a great deal more information than Members of this House have. Perhaps I may press her further on that point.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thought I had made my position clear about access to these documents. I believe that such documents ought to be in the public domain. It is not in my gift to put them in the public domain, but I have undertaken to the House that I will do what I can to ensure that your Lordships have access to them as quickly as possible--if it is possible. My hands are not free on this issue, but I shall do what I can in relation to the points which the noble Baroness raised.

There are three points here: the Hill negotiations, the United Nations Security Council resolution and the contents of the Holbrooke agreement. It is difficult for me to discuss in greater detail than I already have either the Hill negotiations or the negotiations taking place in relation to the United Nations Security Council resolution, for the simple reason that we are negotiating. It is not sensible to broadcast negotiating positions when one is still trying to persuade colleagues to come to a certain point of view. I do not believe that the noble

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Baroness can sensibly expect those involved in such negotiations to expose their full negotiating position. Further, Ambassador Hill is negotiating on those issues with different parties as between Belgrade and Pristina. The position is not straightforward because of the number of parties that must be consulted, for example Mr. Rugova and the KLA. As I said in response to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, the KLA is not entirely united in this respect. A number of matters must be taken into consideration in these very difficult negotiations. I do not believe that we strengthen the hand of negotiators if we demand to know everything that they are talking about before they are in a position to reveal such matters themselves.

As to the political track negotiations, we hope that those will be open to some kind of public scrutiny by 2nd November. The noble Baroness asks what is the Holbrooke agreement. To help the noble Baroness a little further, Mr. Milosevic has committed himself to full compliance with UNSCR 1199: a ceasefire; the withdrawal of heavy weapons and the return of the Serbian security forces to pre-March deployment; full co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, so that those who have committed atrocities can be brought to justice; and genuine political processes to sort out the very dispute that lies at the heart of this conflict. The Serbian statement commits Belgrade to seek agreement with those elsewhere in Kosovo by 2nd November. But, important as anything else, the deal means that aid will be available on a humanitarian basis to avoid the catastrophe that so many people feared. President Milosevic has agreed to full access for the humanitarian agencies.

We are not complacent about it. We recognise that real progress has been made in respect of these issues but that there is a need to sustain it. That is what we shall be monitoring over the next nine days or so until the 27th October. That is what NATO will look at when it meets again on that date.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Merlyn-Rees: My Lords, when repeating the Statement, my noble friend referred to the fact that Milosevic had accepted the principle of self-government for Kosovo. What has he accepted? Is it a different principle or a different interpretation on the part of the KLA?

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