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Lord Avebury: My Lords, I echo the congratulations expressed to our Armed Forces and add my congratulations to the Government on the resolve and determination they have exhibited over the past few weeks. Many people criticised the operation, saying that it could not succeed, and that air power alone would

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be unable to secure the objectives at which NATO was aiming. The Government persisted in their resolve and proved the critics wrong.

There has been an excellent start to the implementation of the agreement under which the NATO forces have entered the territory without encountering serious resistance and were successful in disarming the remnants of the Serb forces which remain with only a handful of small incidents. The Statement mentions the excellent reception that our forces received. It is a reflection of the suffering and hardships endured by the people of Kosovo and vindicates the action that we have taken to restore to their homes those 708,000 people who have been expelled from their own country as well as the additional hundreds of thousands who are displaced within Kosovo.

The more we uncover what has been going on, the more we prove the moral legitimacy of the operation since the Serbian authorities were in the process of murdering, indirectly causing the death of, or expelling from their homes the whole of the population of Kosovo. If one looks at the history of Milosevic's activities in Kosovo, and before that in Bosnia, there is no reason to doubt that if we had not intervened that would have been the end result of the policy.

I take the point that there are only 200 Russian troops in Pristina airport. Can the Minister say whether the Russians have indicated definitely that that is the ultimate size of its contribution to the occupation forces? Alternatively, if agreement can be secured, would they bring in larger numbers of troops; and, if so, would they use Pristina airport to bring them in?

The Statement states that it was the military on the Russian side which sought a sector of its own. Does that mean that there is a difference of opinion between the Russian military and its political masters, with the political masters not insisting on a special sector but the Russian military saying that it should have one? If that were so, it is difficult to see how the undertakings now given by the Russians, and mentioned in the Statement, could be honoured.

I was glad to hear that British police officers have already entered Kosovo and are beginning to investigate the war crimes. No doubt this will be an extremely large job. It is essential that the resources should be brought in as early as possible so that the evidence can be secured. Will the noble Baroness say what arrangements there will be for the storage of forensic evidence, and the taking of statements in accordance with the rules of evidence which apply before the international tribunal on former Yugoslavia so that whatever evidence is uncovered by our police officers can be presented ultimately to the War Crimes Tribunal without doubts about its authenticity?

I was also pleased to learn about the additional £50 million provided by the Government. Is there a budget for the overall operation of getting the refugees and displaced persons back into their homes by the winter, and looking after them until they are able to earn a living? Can we yet begin to work out the costs of rebuilding the houses and infrastructure of Kosovo?

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5.15 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Avebury, for their support and the kind remarks they made about Her Majesty's Government; and most particularly about the British forces which have gone into Kosovo.

There has been a great deal of progress over the past few days, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, about the vindication of the Government's position over using air strikes as the primary means of bringing Mr Milosevic to the point of deciding to withdraw the Serbian forces from Kosovo. In particular we must all wish General Sir Michael Jackson and his forces well. They have done a splendid job so far and I am confident that they will continue to do so over the next few days. They will have a difficult task. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence made it clear that in many ways it is this stage of the operation that is so delicate and sensitive. As both noble Lords made clear, we have all seen on our television screens how high feelings are running on this issue. It has been heart-warming, even moving, to see the welcome accorded the NATO KFOR troops going into Kosovo. However, the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is right: the reverse side of that coin can be very ugly feelings towards some Serb neighbours whom individuals may hold responsible in part, perhaps mistakenly, for some of the atrocities visited upon them, their neighbours and their families.

Over the next few days or so, I suspect that we shall find evidence of more appalling atrocities. This will not just be a case of word of mouth and the terrible descriptions that we have all heard over the past 10 weeks or so. I suspect that we shall see some truly dreadful footage on our televisions; and that will make feelings run very high indeed. The troops will also have to cope with the terrible problems which we know exist of booby traps, mines, and everything else. It is a very difficult time for them. I am sure that we wish them Godspeed in the difficult work that they are undertaking.

The noble Lord asked me whether Serb troops are withdrawing. Yes, they are withdrawing. As the Statement I repeated earlier made clear, the NATO troops are ahead of schedule in going into Kosovo. The troops have explicit instructions that they are there to enforce peace across the whole of Kosovo. The Statement makes clear that it is not just a question of looking after the interests of the Kosovo Albanians but of looking after everyone irrespective of ethnic origin. Some noble Lords may have heard, as I did last week, young British troops saying how clear that had been made to them. I think that there was a report on the "Today" programme. I found it reassuring that not only was the message being sent; it was being received by those troops as part of their remit.

As the Statement makes clear, of course we found difficulty with what happened at Pristina airport. But I understand that the MTA was the practical understanding of how the military would work on the ground: that it was a question of military logistics. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that it has not

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delayed the KFOR troops going in. Indeed, as I said, they are ahead of their schedule. In any case, as I understand it, they could not have gone into Pristina airport because the airport was at the time ringed by the VJ--that is, Serbian forces. All those issues have been discussed by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and his counterpart Mr Igor Ivanov. We have been assured in the way that the Statement makes clear. On the ground, General Sir Michael Jackson has reported that as a result of the discussions he had this morning he is optimistic that these matters will be sorted out. But the noble Lord is right: at one level there is a military discussion going on on the ground in Kosovo; but at another level there is a political discussion--as the Statement makes clear--between the United States and Russia about how the chain of command can be integrated.

If noble Lords read the UNSCR and the annexes to it they will see that the unified chain of command is part and parcel of the understanding reached in New York last week. Of course there are a number of different discussions going on about how to give that some practical impact as regards not just Pristina airport but the whole of Kosovo. Those discussions continue. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is right: one model which can be looked at is the Bosnian model. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked about numbers. So far there are only 200 Russian troops in Pristina airport. On the ground there are about 14,000 NATO troops. We hope that that figure will rise over the next few days and weeks to 45,000 of the KFOR force, of which some 13,000 are expected to come from the United Kingdom. We would like to see more Russian input into KFOR for the final arrangements and we very much hope that the Russians, who we always hoped would be part of the peacekeeping force, will take that opportunity. Indeed, I am sure that that is their intention.

The UNSCR also makes clear that it is the duty of everyone to co-operate with the War Crimes Tribunal. That "everyone" includes the government in Belgrade. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked particularly about the arrangements in that respect. The senior FCO official, David Gowan, has been appointed to be the Kosovo war crimes co-ordinator. He will have responsibility for ensuring that our Government pass on to the ICTY as much information as possible. However, I hope that the teams which will be going--one from the United Kingdom and others from elsewhere in KFOR--will be able to make some progress on that front.

The humanitarian aid which my noble friend announced today will be going across the board in Kosovo, not solely to one part of the community, in order to help to improve the standards there. It will be part and parcel of the civil implementation arrangements which have been agreed, and to which reference was made in the Statement. Those civil arrangements include not only the return of the refugees, which is a UNHCR return, but I am sure that my colleagues in the Department for International Development will be planning a great deal of help. The arrangements will also include policing, de-mining, which is an important part of the work, and work as regards war crimes.

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5.21 p.m.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that surprise moves have long been the currency of Russian diplomatic and military tactics? Does she further agree that undertaking not to make surprise moves are their coins of currency and that in that context it ought to have been possible to foresee and forestall the unfortunate move of the Russians to Pristina airport? Furthermore, is she aware that Russian diplomatic and military strategists have always been taught of the need to be good chess players? Will she ensure that the NATO headquarters have an equally good supply of chess players?

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