§ Mr. Hurd
With our Contact Group colleagues we are still working hard to secure a negotiated settlement. We have reached a critical stage, with the security situation on the ground deteriorating. The Contact Group met in 1019 London this week and is urging all sides to respect the cessation of hostilities agreement, and calling on the Bosnian Serbs to accept the Contact Group plan as a starting point for negotiations. We are working hard for peace in Bosnia. Our forces and aid effort in Bosnia have won deserved praise from the Bosnian Government for their effectiveness and dedication. We want them to continue their work but, as we have often said before, our forces can remain only if they can carry out their tasks at an acceptable level of risk.
§ Ms Hodge
If and when we eventually reach a peace settlement to end the conflict, will the Secretary of State confirm that that will include guarantees on human rights? Will he, in particular, confirm that there will be guarantees that refugees and victims of ethnic cleansing can return to their homes without the danger of persecution and a guarantee that the international community will pursue those guilty of war crimes?
§ Mr. Hurd
Procedures about war crimes are in hand; that is established. It is relatively easy to negotiate paper guarantees but relatively difficult to put them into practice. We must find a way in which that war can be brought to an end. That will depend on acceptance by all the parties concerned—by all the combatants. We can buttress that from outside, but the essence is not the guarantees that we draft from outside but the will for peace inside that country.
§ Mr. Robin Cook
The Foreign Secretary will have seen the statement on Monday by the UN spokesman in Sarajevo that the UN will use air power and limited strikes if the Bosnian Serbs attack civilians in the safe havens. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that, once that threat has been made, it must be carried out if civilians are attacked? Is not the lesson of Bosnia that every time that our bluff is called it weakens our authority? Will he take the opportunity to express his resolve that we will not back down this time?
§ Mr. Hurd
The principle is clear. It has been clear for a long time that NATO air strikes may be called in by the UN—that is perfectly true—and it has been used to good effect. However, it is no good generalising in the House as to when and where that should be done. The circumstances in which that can effectively be done must depend on the judgment of NATO and of the UN commanders on the ground, including our own General Smith.