Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Kennet: My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, might I ask him a question on the interesting comments he has just made? Between now and the achievement of whole-world government, does he believe that any particular machinery is needed to decide when and when not to attack a country which is doing wrong internally, or would he allow a complete free-for-all, with each country in the world being free to decide whether or not to do so?

Lord Desai: My Lords, we have some case law on this. The humanitarian intervention which took place in Somalia was the first intervention which occurred without the invitation of the local government. There was no local government to invite intervention. We then learnt something about the limits of intervention. What happened in the Gulf War in 1991 and what happened last December in the Gulf are examples of full and partial UN support.

What will happen, but not quickly, is that we will reform the United Nations with a Security Council on which there will be proper representation. I might mention qualified majority voting or some such structure whereby we will have broad support from the world community establishing a new framework. It is arbitrary because there is no one else to do it. But we cannot allow the United Nations to do so because it is not a "quick acting" body nor, under its present structure, a democratic body.

Lord Judd: My Lords, will my noble friend agree that if we had all been working flat out to achieve the reforms in the United Nations system which he advocates, our reservation about that system would be a good deal more convincing?

Lord Desai: My Lords, I know that my noble friend has written a report on the reform of the United Nations, but I believe that we should forget about the past and think about the future. There are problems to be overcome and I do not have the answers to all the questions. Sooner or later this lecture must end and it ends now.

6 May 1999 : Column 892

10.43 p.m.

Lord Weidenfeld: My Lords, what has made this debate so very important is that most if not all of us are convinced that Kosovo is a watershed in history. The Prime Minister said that this is not a battle for NATO or for territory; it is a battle for humanity. It certainly is. But it is also a battle in the national interest, in the interest of all democratic states, for the achievement of our avowed aim would have a definite deterrent effect on other transgressors, whether on the banks of the Tigris, in the Afghan hills or indeed in the Colombian jungles. It is a war, not a "conflict" or a "campaign", a war in defence against a threat to peace in a region within an hour's flying time from the heartland of Europe. If we fail or succumb to an unworthy compromise, fudge or split the difference, we shall leave a legacy of slaughterhouses, bonfires of inanities and a record of self-deception or even hypocrisy in the annals of history.

Having listened to the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, the noble Lords, Lord Shore and Lord Stoddart, I shall think twice before drawing historical parallels or indulging in terminological exercises comparing holocaust, genocide, ethnic cleansing, Hitler versus Milosevic. As someone who has had more than tangential personal experience and indeed a lifelong involvement with the exploration of the horrors of the Third Reich, I say with diffidence that, although Milosevic, Mladic and Karadzic lag behind the Nazis in the thoroughness and sophistication of mass destruction, some of the Serb soldiers and police, and certainly the para-military gangs, have nothing to learn from the panzer movement of the SS. In fact, I dare pay them the ghoulish compliment that, in relation to sheer brutality, inventiveness and the minutiae of torture, slaughter and rape, they are a notch higher in the league table of evil.

It is gratifying that our Government have so far never faltered in their resolve, and I hope that they will not yield to false blandishments or fallacious compromise. The main allies hold fast so far: President Clinton is by now used to fighting simultaneous battles on different fronts quite deftly, but it is to be hoped that--and here I agree with and share the hope of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, whose speech I found very inspiring--our Prime Minister will use his influence to stiffen the President's resolve. Let it never be said that where there is no will there is a third way.

France has closed ranks; the red/green German coalition is still holding. There is some irony in the fact that the Conservative opposition in Germany is far less committed. Mr. Oskar Lafontaine's re-entry into German politics via militant pacifism reminds one rather sadly of Britain's Old Labour, indeed very Old Labour, when George Lansbury, in the years of Hitler's rise, led demonstrators against fascism in the morning and voted against the defence budget in the afternoon.

Who would not want a negotiated settlement rather than a continuing war? Such obvious mediators as Kofi Annan and Mr. Chernomyrdin must be left in no doubt about their brief. After all we have heard today, I do not consider that the Rambouillet terms are realistic. They are not real; they are surreal. An autonomy that

6 May 1999 : Column 893

forces Kosovar Albanians to live under the sovereignty of a regime that has perpetrated so much terror is unthinkable.

I agree with the commonly held thesis that the Russians have an opportunity to display moderation, skill and real statesmanship. However, in order for the Russians to be effective, they must have their hearts set on an outcome that also benefits their real interests. Therefore, they must be reassured that NATO's powers have no enduring political ambition in the Balkans that are exclusive or against their interests. The United States, as we all know, has no interest in staying there. The US would rather be shot of the whole thing. But the taxi driver in Moscow and the housewife in St. Petersburg do not think that. They are afraid of NATO.

There is much pseudo-historical argument mindlessly repeated about the whole region, full of half-truths. Of course the Russians have feelings of pan-Slav affinity and religious solidarity. However, in my view, those are secondary to the primordial fear that a NATO victory would set a precedent for future interventions in the innermost enclaves of the Russian Federation or heavy-handed action in parts of the former Soviet Union which are of vital importance to them for economic and strategic reasons, areas which border on the Russian heartland.

As for pan-Slavic feelings, I remind your Lordships that much of the glue that kept Tito's Yugoslavia together was the fear and suspicion of Stalin's Russia, which was only marginally assuaged in the Kruschev and Breshnev eras.

If Mr. Primakov or Mr. Chernomyrdin wanted to earn history's acclaim--granted that they have weak cards on the international game table today--they should emulate that great statesman Talleyrand, of whom it was said that he entered the chamber of the Congress of Vienna naked and emerged at the end with a velvet cloak. If a Russian leader now were to persuade a future Serb government that it should come to terms with the West and with NATO, then that Russian statesman could leave the negotiations with a sable coat. The Russians would then obtain rich rewards for their work and Russia would resurface as a truly important, constructive great power.

I believe that it is very important that we are aware of not just being engaged in a quixotic enterprise, insufficiently prepared and inadequately thought through as it may be. We are here concerned with proving to the Milosevics and Saddam Husseins of this world that, however cumbersome NATO's procedures may be, the perception that NATO is a bloated giant weighed down by sophisticated armour is mistaken.

Lastly, appeasement was a term first coined two generations ago in a situation in which a British Prime Minister may possibly have been excused because he wished to gain time to catch up with a better-armed opponent. Still, that appeasement did not stop a terrible war and ultimately, systematic genocide. Ever since then we have been debating about whether we did or did not know about Hitler's Final Solution and who were the guilty men and willing helpers: we are still arguing about those questions 50 years later.

6 May 1999 : Column 894

Today in Kosovo we know the facts. We see them daily on our television screens. Many a foul deed is corroborated by countless testimonies. Are we to compromise? Are we to pulp all the books and video cassettes about the 20th century and displace the events of Kosovo in our consciences? Are we to leave Stone Age barbarism unpunished and condone the survival in power of heinous malefactors, now, in the last few months of a century in which man has cracked the secret code of life and set foot on the moon?

10.52 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, it has been a long and fascinating debate. It is now very late. Perhaps I may say to the Whips that it may have been fairer to have suggested a 10 minute advisory limit for speeches. Having said that, I shall now try to keep my closing remarks to within 10 minutes.

I agree strongly with what my colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said about limitations on sovereignty. The Prime Minister has been talking rather explicitly in some of his recent speeches about the doctrine of a just war. The doctrine of a just war was always a limitation on sovereignty. The doctrine of just resistance comes in against unjust sovereigns. It is extremely odd that we see in the UN at present China and Russia as the defenders of the principle of absolute sovereignty against those in the world who recognise that government is also a contract and that contract can be broken.

There has been a lot of talk this evening about rhetoric and action and how far we need to make sure that the actions which governments take now match the rhetoric. I agree strongly with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, that there have been a number of mistakes. He mentioned Dayton and went back to the recognition of Bosnia. I would go back further to the summer of 1991 when the European Union, lightly and without thinking through the implications, thought that it could manage the problem of the break up of Yugoslavia and the Americans signalled that it was nothing to do with them and they would leave it to the Europeans. There was a lot of rhetoric without thinking through what the implications were.

A few people within the European Union said at the time that we should contemplate the break-down of relations between Croatia and Serbia and in particular in relation to Bosnia that a small number of troops on the ground was what was needed. Had we put in a small number of troops on the ground in the summer of 1991, we might have averted a great deal of pain, agony and casualties since then. That would have been a just war and proportional force.

What have we learned? We have learned clearly that we need a far more coherent European framework for foreign policy and defence. If we had had one in the summer of 1991 we would have been able to do more. My party has for a long time been committed to the principle of a stronger European defence initiative, and we welcome the extent to which--now covered over by the immediate crisis--the Franco-British initiative is moving forward to provide just what we did not have at an earlier stage in this long and painful crisis.

6 May 1999 : Column 895

It is also clear to me that we need to redefine the transatlantic partnership by recognising that there has to be a greater European share both of the burden and of the responsibility in the European region. Many of us have some doubts about the consistency of American leadership in this crisis, but at the same time we recognise that it is entirely reasonable for American senators and congressmen to ask why Kosovo is their responsibility and their quarrel and why the Europeans cannot play a larger role.

The noble and gallant Lords, Lord Inge and Lord Bramall, the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, and others have said that the implications for British defence needs and capabilities, manpower and reserves also need now to be reconsidered. The SDR was very worth while under different circumstances, but some of its conclusions now need to be reopened, not just within a British context but also within the European context, moving on from the Washington NATO communique, with its welcome for a stronger and more cohesive European contribution, to the Cologne European Council in June.

Where do we go now? I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, that time is not on our side. We have refugees in tented camps. There is a hot summer coming up, in which disease may well spread rapidly through those camps, and after that a bitter winter, in which the refugees may suffer in all sorts of other ways. Roads will become impassable, first through mud and then as the snow comes down. If we are to do something before the winter, we shall need forces on the ground earlier; we need to try to get some of the refugees back into Kosovo before next winter.

I must express my surprise, and the surprise of some of my colleagues, that we have not seen more in the way of pre-positioning of forces and equipment in the region, both as a signal to the Government of Serbia and as an indication that we can act quickly when necessary. I must also express my surprise that a second battle group has been put into Macedonia, when we know how difficult it is to move from Macedonia into Kosovo, rather than its being put into northern Albania, where one might have thought it would now be useful to have rather heavier British as well as other forces, and indeed to be doing something about the appalling state of the roads, transport and equipment there.

The Minister may be able to tell us what role is seen for the KLA in the resolution of the conflict. The KLA is clearly part of the problem, but it may also, as with the Croats in Bosnia, have to be part of the solution. The KLA originally had many dubious connections, particularly in northern Albania, but it has been recruiting a large number of new recruits from among the refugees, and therefore it perhaps provides part of the solution.

It is important that we do not demonise the Serbs and Serbia. I felt uneasy as the noble Lords, Lord Merlyn-Rees and Lord Crickhowell, talked about the lessons of the history of the Balkans, the extent to which these people have been killing each other for years and years. I remind the House that in 1990 the most predicted conflict in the region was over Transylvania,

6 May 1999 : Column 896

between the Hungarians and the Romanians. I was in Transylvania in 1990. One has only to go into Orthodox churches in the region to see murals of wicked Catholics slaughtering the Orthodox people to recognise how close to the surface some of the hatred was between the two religions and ethnic communities.

That conflict did not break out because political and military leadership in those two countries worked hard to prevent it. The conflict broke out in Yugoslavia because particular political leaders--Milosevic, above all, must share some of the responsibility--worked to use ethnic conflicts to maintain military power.

It is important that we construct a civil society in Serbia after the war. I speak with some passion on the subject, having taught a number of Serbs over the past five years. I do not demonise all Serbs. It is important to keep avenues open and to recognise that Britain and others have a large role to play in retraining afterwards.

We should not compromise with Milosevic. I note that the Prime Minister has used extremely strong words in that respect and that the NATO Washington statement on Kosovo says that there can be no compromise on those conditions and that we hold Milosevic and the Belgrade leadership responsible for the safety of all Kosovar citizens. I am a little nervous of the rather more wobbly language of the G8 communique. We succeeded in getting General Meciar out of power in Slovakia by maintaining a level of sanctions rather lower than those we are currently maintaining on Serbia. That should be part of the way in which we approach the resolution of the Serbian conflict.

Lastly, we need to think much more clearly about our preparations for the situation once the conflict is over. We should recognise how wide a commitment western Europe and NATO are making to the whole of south-eastern Europe. The language of the Washington communique, of the German presidency proposal for a stability pact for south-eastern Europe and of the speeches of the Prime Minister in Chicago, Skopje and Bucharest, with their references to a Marshall plan, is strong. We are talking about extending NATO and EU membership over the next 15 to 20 years to all the countries of that region. Many are extremely weak, scarcely viable states such as Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia. There is the issue of what we do with Kosovo, the need to rebuild Serbia and to make Croatia a state with which we can live within the European Union. We must also do something about Bosnia, and Romania and Bulgaria are not yet entirely stable.

That is not just a British task; it is a massive reconstruction of European order over the next 15 to 20 years. That needs a great deal more thought, sober debate and recognition of the long-term implications, political, institutional, financial and military, of the commitments that our governments are now making as a response to the immediate crisis.

11.2 p.m.

Lord Burnham: My Lords, local elections apart, the timing of this debate is immaculate. I am sure that the Minister will welcome the opportunity of explaining to your Lordships exactly what happened today at the

6 May 1999 : Column 897

G8 summit in Bonn. The Russians appear to have gone at least half way towards the NATO view with regard to an immediate end to violence and the withdrawal of the Serbian troops from Kosovo.

Clearly, NATO and the Russians are not entirely at one on that, but I hope the noble Baroness will be able to explain the situation. Of course, we wish to know whether the bombing is to continue, and to what degree NATO will be able to protect refugees.

A further point is what is the reasoning and effect of the fact that Milosevic has "let out" Mr. Rugova, who must be assumed to be a quietening influence on Serbian activities? Also, it is reported that Milosevic is saying that he will accept the deployment of international forces inside Serbia and the withdrawal of Serbians from Kosovo. I hope the noble Baroness will be able to help us on those points.

This has been a fascinating debate. We have heard every opinion from the hawk to the dove in a big way. Speakers divided between the ethical and the strategic in their discussion of the problems of Kosovo, and so much the better for that. One of my noble friends, on a brief visit to the Front Bench after listening to one noble Lord speaking, said to me, "He would never be allowed to get away with that in another place". That is probably correct and, without saying which noble Lord it was, the speech was fairly notable.

At this stage I should say how grateful I am, as are many other noble Lords, to the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, for the help he has given us in informing us about affairs in Kosovo; for giving us maps of Kosovo which show--something which, naively, I never knew--that Kosovo is almost exactly the same size and around the same shape as Northern Ireland; and for the many other briefings he has given us on events as they develop. He has taken great care to do that for a number of noble Lords.

Nearly 200 years after Clausewitz educated the world in the principles of warfare, it is still necessary to quote him to solve our political problems. At the beginning of the crisis in Kosovo the leaders of all the countries which were to be involved should have been repeating Clausewitz, as Sir Michael Howard emphasised, when he said,


    "Nobody starts a war, or rather no one in his senses should do so, unless he knows what he intends to achieve by it".

There is little doubt that the NATO countries failed adequately to think through the consequences of their actions. That, combined with the militancy of the former peaceniks in this country--many of them now sitting on the Government Front Bench in another place--who were, not surprisingly, shocked at the activities of the Serbians against their neighbours, together with the political problems at home of that known military expert President Clinton, have brought us to the terrifyingly dangerous position we are in today.

But there is no point in saying, "I told you so" or arguing that a different policy should have obtained. This is the position we are now in and the only sensible thing to do is to know what to do next. We now have a clear statement that the NATO objective is to make

6 May 1999 : Column 898

possible the return of all the Kosovar refugees to their homes under effective international protection, and it looks as though the recent action of the Russians may help some way towards that. But it will never be simple. There seems no doubt that, barring the elimination of Milosevic, we shall have to negotiate with him. He is not only a war criminal; he is also the possessor of a very dodgy negotiating record.

The political problems are of immediate urgency and seem intractable. Even if they are solved, there will remain the longer-term problems of reconciliation and reconstruction. And "longer" is something we do not have. By October of this year, as a number of noble Lords pointed out, the weather will be deteriorating to the stage where the Kosovars who have been thrown out of their homes and are now either in refugee camps or hiding in the hills, will find it difficult to survive.

The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, said that we are planning to have troops in Macedonia throughout the winter. It seems that there are two alternatives. Either the war has to accelerate so that the refugees are back in their homes before the winter, or the camps have to be winterised to cope with the conditions which will inevitably exist. That point was emphasised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who made it clear that if the latter alternative is the answer, work would have to start now. If work starts now, it will give an immense boost to Milosevic, who will know that NATO recognises that it is unlikely to win at least in the short term. The scale of the humanitarian disaster we see at the moment is nothing to what it will be if the war--for war it is--drags on into the winter and beyond.

What has happened so far has been entirely predictable. It may be that those who criticise the Government for their lack of foresight are being unfair, for they were able to know, and possibly did know, exactly what would happen. The increasingly vicious ethnic cleansing could not have been prevented by NATO and the surrounding countries making preparations to receive its victims. My noble friends Lord Crickhowell and Lord Blaker criticised the lack of long-term planning, and that is undoubtedly a justified criticism, but the Government are probably right to believe that that would have endorsed and underwritten the process and encouraged Milosevic to proceed with his plan. On the other hand, there is a valid criticism that, since a tragedy can seldom have been so predictable, the failure to appreciate what was bound to happen was inexcusable.

A number of noble Lords have commented on the failure of strategic, or indeed of blanket bombing to successfully defeat, or even to demoralise, an enemy. My noble friend Lord Dartmouth made this point. Coventry, London, Stalingrad and even Dresden survived in spite of the thousands of tons of metal which were poured upon them; neither did the bombs succeed in unseating the countries' leaders.

The morale of the Serbian army was touched upon. It is probable that the intelligence available to the Serbian generals and their knowledge of the precision bombings that would take place must have made infinitely depressing reading.

6 May 1999 : Column 899

Tough as were the people of London in 1940, they are probably scarcely in the same league as the Serbians. Their devotion to Churchill was similar to that of the Serbians to Milosevic. However heinous Milosevic's crimes, the effect of the bombing seems to have been to bind the people more closely to him. Spinning worthy of Mr. Blair himself will be necessary to untie the bonds between Milosevic and his people.

In this sense, I should like to ask the Minister to tell noble Lords the degree of penetration into Serbia of NATO-based television programmes, such as those put out by CNN, and radio. How far are the Serbian people aware of what is going on? Are they aware of what is being done in their name? If they are aware, is there any indication that they mind about it?

If the minds of the Serbians are being fed with news from NATO, what about their bodies? No doubt the bombing is being carried out with commendable accuracy, and there is obviously a shortage of oil, however much is slipping through from countries sympathetic to the Serbs, but how long can the country continue without such essential supplies in a land as basic as Serbia? If this was the Serbia of 1942, there is little doubt that the armed forces would decamp to the hills and fight on from there. Is that action practical today? If it is, then it is estimated that NATO will need at least 150,000 men to go in on the ground, but NATO has not got anything like those numbers.

Obviously, I would not expect the noble Baroness, or indeed the noble Lord on another occasion, to give details of strategic plans, but there is no doubt whatsoever that we are not in a position to really get at the Serbians on the ground. The noble Lord castigated me in our last debate for even suggesting the possibility that ground forces might be used. Doubtless the work has now been done to evaluate all the alternatives, and maybe the noble Baroness will be able to tell noble Lords which of the alternatives is the least depressing.

As I said earlier, this has been a fascinating debate. I should like to comment particularly on what I would describe as "the gang of four"--namely, the noble and gallant Lords. Unfortunately, I did not hear the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, who I see is not now in his place, because I had left the Chamber in order to listen to the 9 o'clock news broadcast. However, I found the expertise and professionalism of the other noble and gallant Lords, especially the tough stuff given to us by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, most impressive. I hope that the advice that these noble and gallant Lords have been giving your Lordships and the Government will be listened to.

Many noble Lords talked about our lack of personnel and of people who can conduct such affairs on the ground. The SDR cannot be made to take all the blame for the shortage of front line troops, but what seems to be an inadequate strategic appreciation of demand has not helped. The assumptions about the duration of expeditionary involvement have immediately been overridden by the open-ended military commitment to Kosovo, including the commitment to continuing military supervision to give effect to whatever settlement is reached, when it is reached. We just do not have the men to do it.

6 May 1999 : Column 900

The fundamental problem which the SDR failed to address was overstretch. It was always serious, but the problem of insufficient numbers has now been accentuated by expanding policy objectives. The SDR took place not so long ago and the planners, then largely concerned with Bosnia, must have appreciated that Bosnia was not the only country in the Balkans with problems. Is it disingenuous to suggest that the end of the Cold War led the planners to think that any other major conflict was unthinkable?

The United States is showing itself to be less than sympathetic to the objectives of its rulers. Here in this country the British Government are assured of continuing support in Parliament, but that support cannot be unconditional. Indeed, a number of noble Lords made that point clear this evening. Apart from the problems of the refugees, we are entitled to ask what more we in the Alliance can do to bring these military operations to an acceptable conclusion and, as importantly, when we can do it, certainly before the winter. If we are to do it, how are we, the NATO Alliance, even if we can keep all 19 countries on board, going to man the borders and the streets of the towns of Kosovo?

On a previous occasion I reminded your Lordships of the early days of the Northern Irish problems in the late 1960s. We went in with the Army to protect the Catholic population. Within months they were shooting the soldiers in the back; and continued to do so for 30 years. What assurances can there possibly be that the same thing will not happen in Kosovo? It looks as if what we have is ethical imperialism. I do not know whether this is desirable, but it is not going to make the life of anyone concerned with our military commitments and our military forces any easier.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lauderdale for stating that he will not divide the House on his amendment. I am sure that that would have been of no benefit to anyone. We do appreciate the concern that he and other noble Lords have expressed, but I believe that we should tonight give our wholehearted support, in general, to the Government in what they are doing.

11.18 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, I should like to thank all noble Lords who participated in today's debate. It has been a wide-ranging, comprehensive discussion covering many aspects of the current situation, not only in Kosovo, but also in neighbouring countries. Many opinions have been expressed about how and why this campaign began and about how we should proceed; and, indeed, about what may eventually happen. However, I believe that the House is largely united on one point; namely, our condemnation of the murderous brutality of the Milosevic regime. We are also united in our repugnance and loathing for the ruthless oppression and in our disgust at the daily reports of forced evacuation at gun point, of the murder of men, some of whom are very young--boys in their

6 May 1999 : Column 901

early teens--some of whom are very old--men far too old to fight--and, of course, of the outrageous rape of women and teenage girls.

When NATO action began against Belgrade my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said,


    "Britain is a peaceful nation. We are a peaceful people who take no joy in war but we know from our own history and from our own character that there are times when we have to stand up and fight for peace". Some noble Lords have expressed doubt about the clarity of our objectives. Some have said that we have not thought through what we are doing. That point was made notably by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, and certainly not for the first time. I am bound to say that I continue to find that hard to understand. From the outset our objectives have been clear. They have not changed. They were set out by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on 23rd March when the campaign began, and reiterated by him on 13th April, and again by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary on 19th April, and several times since. The whole of NATO reaffirmed them at the Washington Summit on 25th April. They have been made clear not only in another place but also in your Lordships' House and to the British public.

As to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, of course there are contingency plans. That was made clear earlier by my noble friend Lord Gilbert. But I stand by what I said; namely, that of course situations develop, as do plans. That was an entirely reasonable, and--if I may say so--a not very remarkable point to have made.

There are others--notably the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney--who seem genuinely to believe that if only we had tried harder and if only we had gone that extra mile diplomatically, military action could have been avoided. As the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, said, memories sometimes are painfully short. Let us not forget the enormous efforts made only last year to avoid military action through negotiation. In June, and again in October, President Milosevic gave his word that he would stop his ruthless and murderous oppression. He gave his word not only to us but also to President Yeltsin in July. Again and again he broke his word.

Let us not forget how hard we tried to solve this crisis diplomatically. The diplomatic path was followed as far as it could lead us. The Contact Group, comprising France, Germany, Italy, the United States, the EU Presidency, and, crucially, the Russians, as well as ourselves, worked month after month to pave the way for the text that was drafted at Rambouillet in February. The two sides were closeted together with the negotiators for two-and-a-half weeks at Rambouillet, and again the broad outlines of an agreement were reached.

The Kosovo Albanian side committed themselves to consult. When the talks reconvened in Paris they were ready to sign the agreement. When Milosevic's negotiators returned it was to go back on the undertakings they had made at Rambouillet. Let us not make any mistake about that. Even then we could not trust Milosevic to honour his word. We knew that while

6 May 1999 : Column 902

he had been pretending to negotiate he had been assembling 40,000 troops and 300 tanks in and around Kosovo. I say to my noble friend Lord Stoddart of Swindon, we went the extra mile at every single stage doing what we could to negotiate a way out for Milosevic, trying to find a way for him to back down. He refused on every one of those occasions.

I understand the points made so eloquently by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London about the fears of some of our friends in Russia. However, I hope that they, and indeed he, and the noble Lords, Lord Campbell of Croy, Lord Eden of Winton, and Lord Shore of Stepney, will take heart from the statement issued in Bonn, as we have been debating this matter this afternoon. The statement includes an immediate and verifiable end to violence and repression in Kosovo; the withdrawal from Kosovo of military, police and paramilitary forces; the deployment in Kosovo of effective international civil and security presences endorsed and adopted by the United Nations capable of guaranteeing the achievement of the common objectives; the establishment of an interim administration for Kosovo, to be decided by the Security Council of the United Nations, to ensure conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all inhabitants in Kosovo; the safe and free return of all refugees and displaced persons and unimpeded access to Kosovo by humanitarian aid organisations; a political process towards the establishment of an interim political framework agreement providing for a substantial self-government for Kosovo, taking full account of the Rambouillet accord and the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity for the FRY and other countries in the region; and the demilitarisation of the UCK, otherwise known as the KLA. It is a comprehensive approach to the economic development and stabilisation of the crisis region, which is very important in view of what the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said.

In order to implement these principles, the G8 Foreign Ministers instructed their political directors to prepare elements of a United Nations Security Council resolution. The G8 presidency will inform the Chinese Government about the results of today's meeting. We are asking the political directors to draw up a road map of further concrete steps towards a political solution and Foreign Ministers will reconvene in due time to review the progress.

This is a very good outcome and a significant step forward. We are clear--"we" are clear--that the presence in Kosovo will be a military one with a NATO core. The House and the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, may like to know that Dr. Rugova, speaking to the press in Rome, has said that a military force would be necessary for the return of refugees and that the military force would include NATO and Russian forces.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page