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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his compliments to my right honourable friend which I believe are more than justified. The noble Lord raises the attitude of the governments of Russia and France. Perhaps I may remind the noble Lord that in his Statement in another place my right honourable friend indicated that he had had a telephone conversation yesterday evening with the Foreign Minister of Russia, Mr. Primakov, who had agreed an arms embargo and an embargo on equipment that might be used for internal repression in Kosovo. I believe that the noble Lord's worries on those points should therefore be put in the context of the conversation that my right honourable friend had last night with his Russian counterpart. I hope that that will give the noble Lord some satisfaction.
The noble Lord rightly raises the importance of involving our colleagues in the European Union. Again, I remind the noble Lord of what I said a few moments ago in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. My right honourable friend plans to discuss these issues with the large group expected at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Thursday this week, and with the smaller group of EU Foreign Ministers who will meet in Edinburgh. I believe that we have a favourable opportunity to discuss these important matters in very good time in the way that the noble Lord suggests would be entirely proper.
The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, will the proposed arms embargo also extend to Albania? Having been in and out of that country since the Italian occupation 60 years ago I have some views on the matter. The noble Baroness may be interested to know that the current Albanian ascendancy in Kosovo dates from the period of Tito communism which encouraged Albanians to settle there and drive out the Serbs. Albania has been the source of small arms flooding into Kosovo over the years.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, is it a principle of foreign and security policy that where a state uses armed forces in internal security duties in a manner that causes the death of many civilians and the destruction of much
Can the Minister say what steps the European Union and others will take to bring to the attention of the Serbian military and police personnel the fact that they are running a grave risk of being prosecuted before the international criminal tribunal if they continue along the path they have undertaken?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not believe that I am in a position to start extrapolating from the very unhappy and appalling incidents in Kosovo over the past few days to go as far as the noble Lord urges me to do. What I can say is that the scale of the extrajudicial killings in Kosovo is a matter of international concern. As my right honourable friend said, the international community has a legitimate right, indeed a duty, to condemn such gross violations of human rights. I believe that a number of authorities are calling at present for some independent forensic experts to go into Kosovo to look at the corpses which, sadly, still remain unburied. As my right honourable friend said in his Statement, 12 corpses were those of children. There is no way that anyone can pretend that children have been involved in terrorist action which would justify extrajudicial killing.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, I welcome the general drift of the Statement. However, the one word that it does not contain is "ceasefire". Is it not essential that someone should be charged with the task of negotiating a ceasefire which would be binding on both the Kosovo liberation army and the Serbian state forces? Is that not an essential preliminary to any attempt to resolve the whole conflict in a peaceful manner?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord is content only with the general drift. I thought that the Statement had the merit of being specific on a number of important points. The noble Lord complains that the word "ceasefire" does not appear in my right honourable friend's Statement. Perhaps I may remind the noble Lord of the last sentence of my right honourable friend's Statement. He asked the other place for its backing for a firm message,
Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn: My Lords, is it the policy of Her Majesty's Government that Kosovo should be returned to autonomous status within Yugoslavia? I have been disquieted to hear Kosovo referred to on the BBC in recent days as a Serbian province. I do not think that that is in conformity with such a policy. Secondly, does the noble Baroness recall the questions I asked on the subject of Kosovo, and on this topic, on 10th December 1992 and 25th May 1993? Replying for the Government, my noble friend Lord Henley referred to the "international monitoring presence" in Kosovo. I am not at all clear that there is
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord raises the status of Kosovo. Her Majesty's Government and the European Union, indeed the international community, do not support separatism in Kosovo. What we demand is that Belgrade should provide enhanced and real autonomy for Kosovo within the federal republic. It is that matter that we are urging the federal republic to discuss with the political leaders in Kosovo.
So far as concerns international monitoring, we are urging the Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to increase access for proper monitoring into the areas of Kosovo where so far there has been a denial of access. As noble Lords are aware, it has been very difficult for international monitors and also members of the press to get access to the places where violence has occurred. We hope that that position will be reconsidered so that international monitors can now do the job which will be necessary to satisfy the world that the terrible extra-judicial killings have stopped.
Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that Her Majesty's Government deserve congratulations on their prompt action under the leadership of her right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in relation to the crisis in Kosovo? What action has been taken in respect of other European institutions becoming involved in this issue in an attempt to bring about a settlement? I refer specifically to the Council of Europe on the one hand and the Western European Union on the other. Is my noble friend further aware that, when I was a member of both organisations, we visited Yugoslavia repeatedly and tried to persuade the Yugoslavs that the problem that has now emerged in Kosovo was always there and was likely to erupt? Have any representations been made with a view to using the good offices of the Council of Europe and the Western European Union?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his congratulations to my right honourable friend. I am sure that Her Majesty's Government and our colleagues in Europe will want to consider all sensible means of pursuing a peaceful settlement in Kosovo. My noble friend mentioned in particular the Council of Europe and the Western European Union. I am sure that those will be considered. I would remind my noble friend that the Western European Union is presently more attuned to examining more specific peacekeeping issues. However, I am sure consideration will be given to any sensible alternatives.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, will the Minister tell the House whether the measures that are proposed if the present measures fail will be backed by force, which is now accepted as an essential back-up for diplomacy? Are the ships still in place to effect a proper blockade of Serbia--for example, to cut off oil supplies?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, a number of groups, indeed some of the Albanians presently living in this country, are urging Her Majesty's Government to consider the use of force. I urge your Lordships not to consider such an option. I hope that the Statement that I have repeated has indicated a number of specific measures which the Contact Group not only hopes, but believes, will be successful. The Contact Group will meet again, as I indicated, on 25th March. If the measures that it has indicated have not moved the Belgrade government, then it will be able to consider other measures, including the assets freeze that I mentioned. I am sure that other measures will also be considered at that stage.
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, will the noble Baroness go further in response to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie? There is the old Latin tag: si vis pacem, para bellum. We should therefore not follow the line taken by the late Harold Wilson, who said: "I will never use force in Rhodesia". We should never say that we shall never use force. I hope that we never have to use it. However, the behaviour of the Serbian Government is so intolerable that there must be an ultimate threat of force. Surely, force worked ultimately in Bosnia. Possibly, had we been more prepared to use it earlier, it may not have been necessary. So I say to the Minister: please do not rule out the use of force. I do not under any circumstances advocate it; however, I beg the noble Baroness not to rule it out.
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