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Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, I join in thanking the Minister for repeating the Statement. Perhaps I may apologise for the fact that I have to be on duty as Chairman of one of your Lordships' Committees just after 5 o'clock; so I hope that I will be acquitted of any discourtesy if I have to leave before these exchanges are completed.

In this latest, dangerous example of Bosnian Serb aggression, our prime and immediate concern must be for the suffering civilians, for the UN soldiers, including

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our own, and for the relief workers, including those from the ODA in this country, who are risking their lives amid the warring factions. The priority must be to bring immediate relief, as the Minister said, but I would go further than that. Should there not now be some special UN emergency relief effort to force a passage in one way or another for urgent relief, first, to Potocari and then through to Sarajevo. I urge that not just for immediate humanitarian reasons, but because there is a need to restore some kind of credibility to the UN role in the former Yugoslavia. I am glad that UNPROFOR's value was put into proper perspective in the Statement. If at all possible, it must be maintained, reinforced and made more effective.

I echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, that while withdrawal must remain an option, none of us should be under any illusions about the military risks of withdrawal or the damage that it would do to the UN's future authority and to future prospects for any sensible European Union foreign policy.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness and to the noble Lord for their comments. The first question the noble Baroness asked me was why no ultimatum was issued at the weekend or why is one not being issued now. On the ground, ultimata were issued over the weekend, but at this very moment a resolution which requests the Secretary General to use all resources available to him to restore the status defined by the agreement of 16th April 1993, as I said in the Statement, and which calls on the parties to co-operate to that end, is being debated.

The resolution was in its semi final form last night. It demands that the Bosnian Serb forces immediately and unconditionally release all detained UNPROFOR personnel—of whom I gather there are 43 Dutchmen at the moment—that the parties respect fully the safety of UNPROFOR personnel; that they ensure their complete freedom of movement, including resupply; and that all the parties allow unimpeded access to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees—all the matters that were indeed in the Statement. The resolution goes on to demand that the Bosnian Serb forces cease their offensive and withdraw immediately from the safe area of Srebrenica.

There has been great pressure on the ground. There has been action on the ground. We understand that it was because of the action on the ground, which took out two Bosnian Serb tanks, that the Dutch UNPROFOR troops were taken. We heard President Chirac's statement yesterday. Consultations are going on with the French Government at this moment. I cannot give the noble Baroness any details of the plans, such as they are, because they are not finalised. I shall be in touch with her when I hear any further news.

The noble Baroness asked about Gorazde. The safety and security of British troops are of course of paramount importance to us all. We are naturally alive to the implications for other enclaves, particularly Gorazde, of any Bosnian Serb attack. We have been in close contact all morning with UNPROFOR commanders on the

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ground. As I said in repeating the Statement, there are no reports at the moment of any increased activity around Gorazde. Long may that continue.

We are also confident that the appropriate planning is in place to safeguard the security of our troops. I know that the noble Baroness will understand that I would not want to go into further detail for operational reasons.

The noble Baroness also asked me about the RRF. It is part of UNPROFOR, operating under UN command and its authority. I understand that there is some belief that the RRF will be active immediately. That just does not happen when deploying troops, but I can assure the noble Baroness and your Lordships that having the RRF, many of whose members are already gathered in theatre, will increase the flexibility of the UNPROFOR commanders' responses because they will have a greater variety of equipment which will strengthen them and enable them to give a graduated response to the warring factions or attacks. The noble Baroness asked why they are not being used per se at present. We must have in mind the fact that there are 43 Dutch troops held at present, against whom severe threats have been made.

We are looking to see what more can be done, and that is the matter under discussion at the moment. I remind your Lordships that the RRF is not an offensive force. It is there to protect UN forces and to undertake missions in support of the UN mandate. In order to operate it requires the strategic consent, as does UNPROFOR, of the warring factions. It cannot engage in peace enforcement. The UN mandate is for peacekeeping and for humanitarian aid. The RRF will operate under that mandate.

The noble Baroness asked about the other enclaves. At the moment we have no bad news from Zepa, but anything could happen in the next hours. Indeed, something may have happened since I left the Foreign Office.

The noble Baroness also asked about contact with Mr. Carl Bildt. A meeting with him is about to start—perhaps the Foreign Secretary has already started the meeting—and only afterwards will I be able to give her any more details.

The noble Baroness asked about the influence of President Milosevic on the Bosnian Serbs. Our chargé is on his way to see President Milosevic today. We hope that the president will again use his influence on Mr. Karadzic and on General Mladic. However, I must tell your Lordships that the situation is not good. As I was coming into the Chamber I heard that General Mladic has gone to Potocari with vehicles. He is seeking to separate the males over the age of 16 from the women and children and take them to Bratunac, presumably for some kind of screening. At the same time, he is offering to take the women and children to Kladanj, which is further to the north east of Srebrenica. I cannot say what the outcome of that will be. It has been agreed that there will be a UN monitor on each truck to monitor human rights for the people who are forced on to those trucks should that happen.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, rightly spoke about the suffering people, the UN soldiers and the relief workers and the priority being to bring relief. That is exactly why we are there and why we have been

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able to do as much as I described in the Statement which I repeated to your Lordships. Britain is the third largest donor of humanitarian aid and the only major donor of humanitarian aid to have so many troops on the ground. Neither the US nor Japan, which have given money for humanitarian aid, has any troops on the ground. Therefore, we are playing a major role in trying to resolve this serious situation.

We have the capacity to do more if we can get through. We are ready and have offered to UNHCR our ODA logistics people to provide help wherever we can. That is particularly important should the refugees, who are currently at Potocari, be taken up to Tuzla where there are already 430,000 displaced persons under the feeding and care of UNHCR.

There is a major job to be done. By putting our efforts behind UNPROFOR and behind the discussions that Mr. Carl Bildt and others are carrying on, we hope that we shall get the discussion going again and will stop what is happening. However, there are no easy answers. Certainly, indiscriminate bombing by either side—the Bosnian Serbs or the Bosnian Moslems—will not solve the problem. There is no military solution to the problem, certainly not by getting UNPROFOR into an untenable position, which is what would happen if it went beyond the UN resolutions.

4.54 p.m.

Baroness Thatcher: My Lords, may I thank my noble friend for repeating the Statement and perhaps make a number of comments and ask a number of questions. As I listened to her—and I have listened to other Statements on the subject—I had the impression that so long as this operation is supervised by UNPROFOR, no one will ever get a hold of it and take the requisite decisions and action to bring it to an end and see that the victims win and the aggressors are vanquished. Would she therefore see whether it is possible to put the matter under NATO, which would be much, much more effective?

Secondly, as I listened to the scene that my noble friend described, I was reminded that the right of self-defence is far older than the United Nations. The United Nations did not invent it and the United Nations has no right, in effect, to make it inoperative. Why, then, in view of the scene that she described and the lack of men and equipment, are the Bosnians not allowed to arm themselves effectively with sufficiently strong equipment and sufficient munitions to defeat the Serb aggressor? The Serb is the aggressor; the Bosnians are the victims. We should not deny them the fundamental right to self-defence. I doubt the legality of doing it, and I have no doubt that it is morally wrong to deny them that right.

Thirdly, my noble friend spoke of the United Nations resolutions and the possibility of there being more. Will she agree that the resolutions on humanitarian aid and on protecting the safe areas are taken under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter and are enforcement resolutions, and, therefore, the UNPROFOR troops have the right to enforce humanitarian aid getting through and have the right to enforce the safety of safe areas? By

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calling these areas "safe" we have encouraged innocent people to go into them. We should therefore make proper provision for their effective defence. All those resolutions are under Chapter VII. They are not peacekeeping; there is no peace to keep. They are to enforce the resolutions. Those powers are not being used. We have the weapons, we have the quality, the number and the most excellent armed forces, in particular those to whom my noble friend referred. They are not being used to protect the innocent.

Finally, my noble friend spoke of negotiations. There have been negotiations after negotiations after negotiations after negotiations. The last round of negotiations actually gave land to the Serbs from the Bosnians. The Bosnians were prepared to accept that if it would bring peace. We can have no more negotiations. The Serbs must accept the agreement of the contact group. There is no point in more negotiations because each time more are entered into the Serbs are given hope: the Serbs need only have a bit more aggression and there is a bit more land. That will not do. There are many potential aggressors looking at and learning from what is happening in Bosnia, waiting to see whether they would get away with it, in countries of the former Soviet Union and of the Middle East. Please will my noble friend take away the message that soft words will not do? We need stern, calmly calculated, effective action.


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