HL Deb 28 February 1994 vol 552 cc810-2

2.52 p.m.

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are satisfied with the level of co-ordination between Europe's Foreign Ministers in dealing with the situation in Bosnia.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, yes, we are satisfied with the level of co-ordination. The European Union plan of action produced by that co-ordination has been accepted in principle by all parties as the framework for a negotiated settlement. Bosnia has regularly featured high in the agenda for monthly Foreign Affairs Council meetings. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is in close and frequent contact with his main EU colleagues on policy towards Bosnia.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. But judging from the situation in Bosnia, it would not seem that there is a relationship between any Foreign Secretaries which will help end this miserable war. Does the Minister accept that thousands of people are being killed every week, in addition to the racial slayings of Moslems? Does she also accept that the NATO powers should now assert themselves? Otherwise there is no point in having NATO. I should like to take the opportunity to mention the magnificent job being carried out by General Sir Michael Rose, the British commander of the United Nation forces, He is doing a first-class job; but is he not being frustrated by the politicians of the West?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, no politicians are frustrating either General Sir Michael Rose or any of the other commanders. As we shall hear in a Statement later today, NATO had to take action this morning when there was a blatant breach of the no-fly zone by Serb aircraft. There is no doubt in my mind that not only NATO but also UNPROFOR on the ground are carrying out the jobs that they were asked to do. In parallel with that, we must continue to try to make progress with a negotiated settlement. Indeed, action still continues, despite the lower level of media coverage for it, in order to try to reach a resolution of the problems involved in the tragedy of Bosnia.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, does the Minister agree that a good test of the level of co-ordination among European Foreign Ministers would be the speed with which they now issue a unanimous statement supporting the NATO action to which she referred?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I can well understand why the noble Lord has asked the question. Our Foreign Secretary this morning in Athens made a very important comment on the incident. The incident must not affect the efforts which so many are making— for example, the European Union, America, Russia and others— to build on the improvement of recent weeks and work towards a settlement in Bosnia.

It is also important to note that the matter is now being discussed not only with our European partners and America but also with Russia. This morning my right honourable friend saw Moscow's special Yugoslavia envoy, Vitaly Churkin. Everyone is aware that the action this morning was taken under Security Council Resolution 816.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether the Government back the American initiative for a Bosnian-Croat/Bosnian-Moslem confederation? If they back the initiative, can the Minister also tell the House whether they have had discussions with our European Union partners on the matter and, indeed, with the noble Lord, Lord Owen; and whether— again assuming that they back the initiative — it now means that the Owen-Stoltenberg plan for a partition of Bosnia is now on the back burner?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, first, the British Government fully support the United States initiative to promote a rapprochement between the Moslems and the Croats. That should build on the ceasefire which has been agreed between the parties in central Bosnia. Both the United States and the Russian Federation accept that all this must be built on the European Union plan of action and on the achievements gained by the co-chairmen. It certainly does not undermine what the co-chairmen have done; it will build upon it.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is the Minister aware that no real action was taken by the United Nations or by the Foreign Secretaries of Europe in 22 months? Is she further aware that that is causing grave irritation not only in this country but also in the United States of America? There is now the danger that a solution to the problem will be found by the Russians. That is so, and that would be no help to Great Britain or, indeed, to the United States of America. Therefore, will the Minister and her right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary (who stands in very high esteem in Europe) hold an emergency meeting to devise a policy that will bring this slaughter to an end?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I must advise the noble Lord that I do not believe anything would be achieved at this precise moment by calling such a meeting. We have a further meeting next week of Foreign Ministers of the European Union. As I said in answer to an earlier question, my right honourable friend has already been in touch today with Russia's special envoy. Moreover, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is in the United States of America and is in discussion with the Americans and we are in constant touch with all our European partners. Although the United Nations may have seemed not to take the action that the noble Lord would have liked, it has indeed set down in two pages a number of very clear guidelines.

As I have said in your Lordships' House many times before, the difficulty that we face in Bosnia is that, however much all of us who are not involved in the fighting want it to stop, the tragedy will not come to an end until the parties concerned themselves decide that it will cease.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, is this not a time when we ought to be congratulating the Security Council, the members of the United Nations and, as my noble friend said, the general in command? The role of General Sir Michael Rose has been most important. Therefore, when there are good prospects— and we have seen more progress in the past 10 days than we have seen in so many months— surely this is a time for some recognition of success?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I agree. It has been extremely heartening to see the strong stand taken by General Sir Michael Rose and by all our troops and those on the ground. However, I caution about believing that we are near to the end of the problem in Bosnia. But I do not think that the noble Lord meant to imply that in what he said. Where we must be most cautious is in saying that any solution can be down to one person, one group of people or one organisation. It will take the combined strengths of the United Nations, the European Union, the other partners and especially NATO's coverage of the situation to bring the conflict to an end.

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