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Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Richard, in thanking the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place. Undoubtedly, the Dayton agreement is the best hope that we have of ending the horrors of the war in the former Yugoslavia. That hope far outweighs what must remain our deep sense of dismay about the brutal ethnic cleansing that will be left behind if the tide of war truly retreats.

There are some hard lessons for European governments arising out of the Dayton agreement. With European help and support, the United States has succeeded where Europe, with American help and support, failed in the past. That emphasises in the first place the importance of maintaining the Atlantic alliance in modern conditions. It equally emphasises the need to improve the European Union's capacity for joint foreign policy making and joint operations in the defence field.

We will want to study the details of what is an obviously complex agreement. I join the noble Lord, Lord Richard, in hoping that there will be answers to the questions that he has put. We will all be anxious to know something about what will be the rules of engagement for our troops in this new operation, led by the major nations within NATO. We could do with some further information than the Minister was able to give us in answer to an earlier Question today about the reaction of Russia to the agreement, what is likely to be the Russian role and to what degree the Russians are ready to co-operate in the military arrangements that have been proposed. We would also like to hear what will be the juridical backing for the NATO-led military operation within the United Nations.

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Finally, it would be interesting to hear from the Minister some of the Government's ideas about the part they may play in what will undoubtedly need to be a massive operation of international reconstruction, to help to bind up the wounds of war in the former Yugoslavia. If that can be done successfully, it might do more than anything else to create a better sense of unity in Bosnia Herzegovina than will exist immediately with the complicated, divided arrangements that are proposed in the agreement.

The truest words that the Minister used in the Statement that she repeated were:


    "Now, as never before, promises must be kept".

I hope that they will be kept all round.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I thank both the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, for their comments. All the answers are by no means yet available, but I shall do my best to give as much information as I have to hand.

The Bosnian Serbs' attitude will seem to waiver for a while, but one has always to keep in one's mind that they agreed that Mr. Milosevic would negotiate on their behalf. That was agreed before Dayton and, therefore, were they to try to run out on the agreement now, Mr. Milosevic would have something to say.

The noble Lord, Lord Richard, asked me about troop figures. All I can tell him at the moment is that, yes, it is absolutely crucial that we have that commitment of US troops to go in. The noble Lord will have noted that I said that we would go in with them and the French troops and we would come out with them. Therefore, whatever Congress may be debating at the moment, it will have a strong case put to it for co-operating. If it were not to co-operate, then the Dayton agreement would be in considerable doubt and that would then be set at the door of Congress.

I cannot confirm absolutely what the numbers would be, but it is about 60,000 in total. Around 13,000 or 14,000 would come from this country. I cannot yet confirm the mix of troops except that non-NATO countries will be among them; which ones I am not yet able to say, but some will certainly come from the countries involved in the Partnership for Peace. We see that as a positive contribution, including, of course, the contribution that the Russians particularly wish to make.

The United Nations cover has yet to be worked out in detail. There is no doubt that, as the noble Lord said at the beginning, the United States has been out in front, but I have to pay tribute to Pauline Neville-Jones in the Foreign Office and her team. To be cooped up for the past three weeks in the Dayton military base may have concentrated the mind, but it was pretty tough going and they have come out with the framework agreement which we wanted and for which the United Kingdom has worked so hard. Both the framework agreement and the annexes thereto were discussed among all five of the contact group delegations; namely, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Russia, before they were presented to the parties who agreed

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them yesterday. There was very formidable expertise in that contact group. Carl Bildt's team contributed extremely valuably during the negotiations.

The UN forces were neither mandated nor equipped to fight the war in Bosnia. That is why they could never impose peace in the past. But we now have an agreement. We should never forget that, in the past, 2.7 million people were kept alive through three successive winters. Winter is upon us and we must get on with the reconstruction as well as with keeping people going until reconstruction can start. We therefore have a major job ahead of us.

The exact UN arrangements are yet to be worked out. I will give the noble Lord and this House the detail as soon as I am clear what it will be. We are working now towards the peace implementation conference that is to take place in early to mid-December in London. That will help us decide, in the noble Lord's words, how to mesh together the essential civilian and military components of the peace settlement.

The Atlantic Alliance will play a crucial part. As I said earlier in answer to a Question in this House, IFOR, the international implementation force, will be NATO led. As the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, knows, we do not discuss rules of engagement. Anyway, we are quite a long way away from that sort of thing. We hope also that the troops will not have to be engaged in the way they were under UNPROFOR. We are fairly certain that there will be a high degree of Russian co-operation. The Russian commander will be one of the deputies to SACEUR. I was asked earlier in the day about the detail of command and control and whether it was wise to bring the Russians in. We must leave it to the good sense of the NATO commander to work out a system whereby we can make the peace in Bosnia work. But at no time will we ever allow this country or any other NATO member to be vulnerable as a result of the rules that are worked out for implementation in Bosnia.

The United Kingdom will play a fairly major role in the reconstruction. But we hope very much that it will be an enabling role, one that helps a market economy to start up again in Bosnia and helps companies there to work on reconstruction under the direction of a World Bank-led plan. We have, of course, been one of the contributors to reconnecting the basic utilities and to keeping life going in former Yugoslavia over three and a half years. We shall continue this job to bring matters to a successful end.

4.15 p.m.

The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that her mention of the Russians taking part in the top machinery of this project brings a great deal of relief to those of us who wonder how realistic the whole project is? There is talk of a single Bosnian state when citizens there have been tearing each other apart for the past three years. There is talk of democratic elections when they have only just put away their guns, if indeed they have done so. Those of us who know the Balkans are struck by a certain air of unreality. With the Russians plum in the middle of this process, one is a little more hopeful now that it might work.

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My noble friend mentioned refugees returning to their homes. The Krajina refugees will find that their homes have been torched. There are not many homes to go to. Therefore in the whole reconstruction effort it will require a lot of imagination and improvisation even to put roofs over the wrecks of the houses that are left. Is my noble friend really happy about the participation of NATO? Is there not a danger that NATO will be sucked into a world-wide rapid reaction force role to which it is in no way fitted and to which it is politically unsuited?

Is it not faintly unrealistic to talk about democratic elections among people who were not even at peace a month ago? We look forward to democratic elections here. I see opposite me noble Lords of great eminence who, I know, will not pull a gun on me the next time I stand up to speak. But we cannot be certain that that will not happen in Bosnia. Indeed, the story of the first Yugoslav parliament is one that brings to mind the two red lines in the other Chamber here which are two and a half sword lengths apart. They would need in this case to be two pistol shot lengths apart. This whole project has about it the scent of unreality. How people are to return to houses that have been destroyed I do not know. How people are to agree to respect each other's behaviour in a democratic election when only a month ago they were killing each other beggars imagination.

I have another question for my noble friend. We realise that there are two technical problems of great difficulty. One is the Brcko corridor; the other is the Moslem corridor to Gorazde. Has thought been given to the possibility of a sort of concrete fly-over, which might provide a physical answer to the political difficulties? Obviously, the corridor is very important to those who are interested. One wants to make quite sure that people there will not be destroyed, undermined or interrupted by hostile forces from either side. The idea of a concrete fly-over may possibly make sense in this connection.


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