|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, does the UK-Dutch proposal before the Security Council deal with the issue of how we can bring pressure to bear on Iraq soon to reconsider its rejection of UNSCOM and perhaps to accept a newly created UNSCOM?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It is a matter of negotiation, my Lords. I cannot give the noble Baroness any assurances on what will be the final outcome of the Security Council draft resolution. She will understand that. But of course we wish to see such provisions in the matters we are discussing at present. It is a comprehensive draft Security Council resolution which picks up points from all three panels. It deals not only with weapons of mass destruction and the humanitarian issues but also with the issue of the Kuwaiti "disappeared".
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I assure my noble friend that I have not yet left Iraq. I have a great deal more to say and shall try to do so in the short time available. If I do not cover all his points I shall write to him.
I was asked specifically about how food was getting through. I assure your Lordships that where the Iraqi Government want food to get through it gets through. Where the Iraqi Government are much less keen on food getting to the Iraqi people it does not get through. Your Lordships have to concentrate on some of the points we have made in the House before about the food and the medicines that are held up and about the fact that Iraq is trying to sell food to some of its neighbours while its own people starve. It is selling food to Syria; it would sell food to Jordan if it could.
My noble friend asked me particularly about no-fly zones. As he knows, they were established in 1991 and 1992. The coalition initiative was in support of Security Council Resolution 688. I remind my noble friend of what it is there for. It is to end the brutal repression of the Kurds and the Shias. We are trying under international law to protect those people, who have been persecuted by the Government of Iraq. There have been some engagements recently, as my noble friend will know. I was able to assure the House the other day that such engagements take place only when our aircraft are challenged. I shall be happy to write to my noble friend on this specific issue if that will be of any help to him.
I must now turn to some of the other countries in the Middle East. I want to say a few words about the Gulf. It is natural that we focus on Israel and Iraq, given recent events. But it would be wrong to ignore our allies in the Gulf and the wider perspective. It would also be wrong, as the noble Baroness said, to see one part of the region in isolation from another.
Nobody can realistically deny the significance of the region to the global economy. The region contains over 50 per cent of the world's remaining hydrocarbon reserves. Production of oil and gas from the Gulf will make an increasing contribution to meeting world demand as production elsewhere declines. But that is not the complete contemporary picture. The Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, have developed a political importance and capacity in their own right, and, of course, we respect that. We have been encouraged by recent moves towards more representative government in the Gulf. I mention in particular Qatar, with its first ever municipal elections in March in which women participated both as candidates and as voters. We are also pleased at Oman's efforts to introduce political reform and a new "basic law". We are particularly pleased that the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have also provided welcome political support for NATO's actions in Kosovo and material assistance to the humanitarian efforts going on there.
The noble Lord, Lord Rea, asked questions on Turkey. We have asked that embassy officials be allowed to attend the proceedings concerning Mr. Ocalan. We have made clear as well--I am sure the noble Lord will be pleased with this--our opposition to the death penalty. We have still to gain access to the trial. I shall write to the noble Lord on the points that he raised about the Ilisu dam project.
The noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, asked about the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in Syria. I shall write to him on that. My noble friend Lord Hanworth made an interesting contribution on the historic and continuing importance of the oil industry in this part of the world. I shall write to him on the points he raised.
Recent developments in the wider Middle East are of course significant but they are also encouraging. We look forward to working even more closely with the governments of the Gulf states and of Israel, Jordan and Iran. We look forward to working with them to establish strong foundations for security and stability in the region and we look forward to the day when they can all take their rightful place in the international community. I trust that your Lordships will agree that the people deserve nothing less than our strongest efforts to help them achieve those goals.
"At the Washington Summit at the end of April, NATO's political leaders took two important decisions for the future direction of the alliance's military strategy in Kosovo. First, they agreed to step up and intensify the air campaign. The results of that decision are daily becoming more evident as NATO planes steadily weaken and progressively destroy the capability of Milosevic's forces and increase the pressure on him to accept a peace settlement based on NATO's conditions. NATO's air campaign is working.
"During last week's debate I gave some statistics about the amount of damage which we have already done to Yugoslav forces in Kosovo. Each day we add more to the tally. Yesterday alone, in one day, NATO aircraft destroyed at least 15 artillery pieces, five tanks, a surface-to-air missile launcher and several artillery and mortar positions. On 22nd May the tally included at least 12 tanks and 11 armoured vehicles.
"The overall losses inflicted on the Yugoslav forces are now estimated to include more than 110 combat aircraft. NATO estimates that this includes about 70 per cent of the MiG-29s and about a quarter of the MiG-21s. These are the most combat-effective of the Yugoslav aircraft and they represent a very significant loss.
"We have struck around 600 individual pieces of military equipment, more than half of them tanks, artillery and armoured personnel carriers. That constitutes about one-third of the Serb heavy forces inside Kosovo. We have destroyed 75 per cent of Serbia's fixed surface-to-air missile sites and more than 12 per cent of the mobile systems. We have struck more than a dozen command posts.
"Those are the effects of the air campaign on the forces on the ground, which present the most challenging targets. The strategic targets include most of the primary road and rail bridges over which supplies must pass. We have attacked more than a third of all the fixed telecommunications sites, we have repeatedly attacked airfields and hangars and numerous ammunition and fuel storage sites and barracks.
"All of this represents a very effective air campaign which is achieving the military objectives which we set at the outset of the campaign. The demonstrations, desertions and dissent we have witnessed in recent days are evidence that ordinary Serbs are now questioning the policies of Milosevic and the damaging and unwinnable conflict with NATO into which he has led them.
"The second Washington Summit decision was to update NATO's plans for the deployment of ground forces. Air and ground options are sometimes described as if they are separate and different. This has never been the case. NATO has always planned for a ground force to ensure the safe return home of the refugees once the air campaign had achieved its objective. We have already assembled a Kosovo
"However, the massive destruction wrought by Milosevic's forces in Kosovo means that the original planned total of 28,000 will no longer be adequate. On top of the task of creating a secure environment for the returning refugees, it is now necessary to plan on a much increased scale to assist with the re-establishment of the civil infrastructure, with the provision of humanitarian aid and with the clearance of landmines laid by Milosevic's forces. We are working with our partners to ensure that civil structures are in place to take on these tasks, but inevitably much of the early burden will fall to military forces.
"The North Atlantic Council yesterday took note of a revised plan drawn up by NATO's military authorities which, subject to more detailed planning, identifies a requirement for a force of around 45,000 to deal with the full range of tasks now envisaged. This figure excludes any additional forces which may be needed to provide essential national logistic support, which may raise the overall number to nearer 55,000 to 60,000. Further work to develop this military planning is going ahead within NATO.
"The Kosovo Force plans will still need to be adapted as the situation on the ground changes and to take account of wider developments in the context of a political settlement. Discussions are taking place about the contributions which allies can make to such a force.
"The British Government have made it clear that, as in Bosnia, we are keen to work with other nations which are prepared to provide military forces for KFOR. Given the need for NATO to be ready to react quickly to deploy into Kosovo in support of a peace settlement, the United Kingdom is today taking a number of steps on a national basis to ensure that we can move as soon as it is possible to get the refugees back home.
"We have decided that the United Kingdom will make a substantial contribution to the planned force. This is consistent with the role we have taken so far in the campaign and with our determination to see it brought to a quick and successful conclusion. We are determined that as many refugees as possible can return home before the winter closes in.
"The United Kingdom, because of the capability and deployability of its forces, is well-placed to contribute to that operation. Moreover, as the framework nation for the Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps, our initial contribution will inevitably be high. However, we envisage that the UK contribution to the force will reduce markedly after an initial deployment period of six months.
"I am now reducing the notice to move of the three infantry battalion groups that, as previously announced, are undergoing training for possible operations in Kosovo. The units concerned are 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment, 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment and 1st Battalion Royal Gurkha
"Precisely how many of those earmarked forces will be needed by NATO will depend on a number of factors--most importantly, what forces other allies are able to provide in the time required. Given the importance that NATO attaches to the early identification, training, commitment and deployment of additional forces, we judge it prudent to take those steps now to keep options open and be ready to respond once firm requests are received from NATO. The geographical distance of the United Kingdom from the theatre of operations means that deployment times are inevitably longer for us than for most other allies.
"In all, we are reducing the notice to move of more than 12,000 personnel, in addition to the 5,400 already deployed in Macedonia as part of the Kosovo implementation force and 1,600 others committed to Kosovo operations. We are also taking steps to provide the equipment and material needed to support a force of that size and are making preparations to deploy the heavy equipment of the three infantry battalion groups and some combat support to the region next month.
"Those are serious steps and they will place great demands upon all three services, individual service men and their families. But they are steps that measure up to the seriousness of the situation that confronts us in Kosovo. Let us remember that 1.4 million people--more than three-quarters of the population of Kosovo--have been driven in terror from their homes. Our objective is to allow them to return home and to rebuild their shattered lives in conditions that are secure and civilised; and in doing so, to show that the cruelty and brutality that we have seen in Kosovo over the last year will not be tolerated. That is a major and momentous undertaking which in the coming months and years will require a major investment of diplomatic, financial, humanitarian and military effort. The measures that I have announced today are a further demonstration of this Government's determination to play a full part in that historic effort."
Lord Burnham: My Lords, before anything else, I am sure that I should emphasise the tribute paid by the Minister to the work that our armed forces are doing in the area and to that which they may be expected to do. They have been faultless in their performance and I have little doubt that they will continue to be faultless.
I am most interested in the news that the Minister has given the House on the effect of air bombardment on Serbian armed forces. I hope that I am not being cynical, but the figures remind me just a fraction of the figures for the number of German aircraft that the Royal Air Force claimed to have shot down in September 1940. The Statement talks about destroying 75 per cent of fixed surface-to-air missiles and 12 per cent of mobile systems. That seems impressive, except that the mobile systems are the modern ones and the fixed weapons are outdated. I totally accept that it is difficult to make an accurate statement of the scale of destruction, but is there any tangible evidence of that scale of destruction of Serbian armed forces and their equipment?
The Minister gave a list of the battalions being sent to Macedonia. It has been clear from what we have seen recently that a number of the units--specifically 1 Para--can only be brought up to strength by borrowing from their fellows. That has ever been the case when the Army goes to war. But it is increasingly serious when the Army's total strength is so depleted. What will happen if 3 Para is required to go into action? Has it got any men?
The Statement makes it clear also that the original figure of 28,000 for the Kosovo Force will not be adequate and refers to a figure of 60,000. It also makes it clear that the United Kingdom is the framework nation for the Rapid Reaction Corps, so that it may be expected that this country will help to provide a sizeable proportion of the forces required. Where will they come from?
Where will the forces come from? We may be confident that in this country politicians see the campaign through the eyes of their professional military advisers. Is the same true of the other NATO countries? Will political and military advisers be able to play their part? Have even now adequate plans been made for the future six months, year and years?
The Statement confirms that the UK contribution to the land force will reduce markedly after an initial deployment period of six months. I do not expect the Minister to comment on plans for the future, but from all we know of the Serbians, Kosovars and Albanians, that statement seems somewhat unrealistic. However, I accept that that is the Government's policy and it is one of which we totally approve--but one to which we will hold the Government.
The Statement refers to the United Kingdom working with its partners to put the "civil structures" in place. It is not primarily civil structures that are needed but houses and homes. What underpinning will NATO forces give the Kosovars when they return to their homes because they are said to be safe and they then find them razed to the ground? Will NATO not only help them to rebuild but have the power and influence to ensure that the Serbs do not come back and raze those homes to the ground all over again?
In the context of preparations being made for refugees outside Kosovo's borders, it is reported that UNHCR was forbidden to prepare for more than a certain number. I accept the danger that being too ready would have given comfort to Milosevic, but can the Minister enlighten the House on that policy?
I hope that my remarks do not appear too condemnatory of the Government's actions. We on these Benches entirely support what has been going on. It is in no way my intention to be hyper-critical. But the noble Lord and the Secretary of State must accept the major concern that exists throughout the country about the way the war is going. Grateful as we are to receive this Statement today, those who read the serious newspapers get a great deal more than the noble Lord has been able to give. That is in no way intended as a criticism of the noble Lord; it is a feature of the time and space that have been available.
The trouble with what we read in the newspapers is that it cannot all be true. Without a vestige of sarcasm I say that I would rather listen to what the Government tell us than what I read in the newspapers. The trouble is that, even then, we have to read between the lines.
In conclusion, perhaps I may again emphasise the debt that this country owes to all members of the Armed Forces for their current work and for the work that they may be expected to do in the future. Will the Government remember that they have homes and families? In this modern age we should not expect them to be separated for too long--we can, of course: they have enlisted, and it is their duty to go where and do what their political and military masters tell them. But the Army is seriously depleted in numbers already, and such treatment is desperately bad for recruitment and retention.
I have talked about the Minister's statement that the British effort will be downscaled. Given the confidence that one way or another Milosevic can be totally defeated, can the Government now say what will happen then: to the Serbians, the Kosovars, the refugees and, not least, to our own Armed Forces?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the Government's announcement. We had indeed been pressing for some weeks for the sending of further troops to the region. It seemed to us entirely correct in these very difficult circumstances to provide more troops in Macedonia and Albania, either for use if a semi-permissive environment has to be taken, or for help in occupying, after an agreement, for what will now have to be a major process of reconstruction.
We also appreciate that what the Government have announced is a force that may have to be used under different circumstances which we cannot yet foresee. There is therefore a short-term immediate need for this action. However, we also emphasise that, in everything that is done, we must think about the long term. How far are plans now moving ahead in terms of thinking beyond next winter? An international protectorate for Kosovo clearly has to be the next stage, whatever happens to the Serbian government, and assistance for rebuilding and consideration in regard to rebuilding the region as a whole. In one of his speeches, the Prime Minister referred to a Marshall Plan for south-eastern Europe beyond the immediate needs of this summer. That is the kind of thinking that now needs to be under way.
As regards the announcement, we note that on the current projections of figures potentially some 20,000 out of the 60,000 troops committed to the region may be British. Is that the scale of contribution that we think may be necessary? Does it imply that the British are likely to be the largest single contingent--larger than the American as well as the French? If that is necessary, so be it. However, it would be helpful to have further information as to what scale of contribution the other major contributors are likely to provide.
With regard to 3 Commando Brigade, will the Dutch contingent, as part of the British-Dutch amphibious group, be part of 3 Commando Brigade? Are we therefore sending a combined force as part of our contribution?
In terms of links between the parallel discussions on European defence co-operation, now well under way, and this immediate initiative, will the Minister tell the House how he sees the two relating? Will he say whether so far there have had to be national contributions under a NATO element; or are the moves, with which the Government are also concerned, to promote closer European defence co-operation taking place on the ground as we move forward in Kosovo? Are the costs likely to be borne by each contributing nation, or has there yet been any consideration about how the immediate, as well as the long-term, costs might be shared out?
We are conscious that this will require a heavy commitment of British troops. It is likely that it will mean some recall of reserves. We welcome the statement that after the first six months it is likely that the British contribution will be scaled down in comparison to others. But, as I said, we welcome the statement that Britain is prepared to take action now to make a major contribution to what is needed in these very difficult circumstances.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for the tributes that they have paid to Her Majesty's forces in Macedonia and Albania and those operating in the Adriatic and out of bases in Italy and Germany.
The noble Lord talked about the effects of the air bombardment. I must confess that I am not enthusiastic about shopping lists of pieces of equipment that have been knocked out. I am far more interested in the state of morale of the forces to whom we are opposed. From time to time we receive highly sensitive reports on the state of morale in the bunkers of Belgrade. There is no question that some hairline cracks are showing. Equally important are the reports that we receive regarding publicly reported cracks in the morale of civilians and armed forces in Yugoslavia. Those are even more encouraging than the effects of the air bombardment.
The noble Lord asked whether there was tangible evidence of the lists of items that I gave being hit. Yes, there is, in the sense that there are photo images of almost all of them. We also receive reports from various sources on the ground.
The noble Lord asked about 1 Para. He was gracious enough to acknowledge that they would always have been back-filled and that was a perfectly normal state of affairs. He asked some hypothetical questions about 3 Para. I do not want to be seduced into answering questions of that kind; they are thoroughly hypothetical at this time. I understand that 3 Commando Brigade will be coming from Taunton, Chivenor and Arbroath.
As regards reductions after six months, which were welcomed by both noble Lords, one of the reasons that we expect that to be possible is that eventually we hope to involve more and more non-NATO forces in any occupation force in Kosovo. NATO has always been open on that matter. We should, for example, be happy to have Russian forces there if Russia wanted to send some. But we are insisting that any force that goes into Kosovo will have NATO as its core, not least for the reason that NATO is the only organisation that can provide proper logistics and a proper command function.
With regard to over-stretch of the Armed Forces, which we all acknowledge, the noble Lords may like to know that we have already begun roulement with respect to the land forces in Macedonia. To take up another point made by the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, we are extremely concerned about the importance of family support to the forces engaged in these operations. It may be of interest to the House to know that there has been a round of ministerial visits to the families of the units serving abroad. I have been to Royal Air Force units in Lincolnshire and also to Portsmouth. My ministerial colleagues have visited several other groups of families. I found their morale quite high.
The noble Lord, Lord Burnham, asked me a series of impossible questions, as he often does. He asked what will happen when Milosevic is finally defeated. My first question is: who knows whether Mr. Milosevic will still be alive? Secondly, who knows who will be running Serbia? Will Serbia convert itself into a democratic state? Will it be run by a military oligarchy?
The noble Lord asked what will happen to the refugees. We hope they will all go home. One of the interesting points about the present situation is the tenacity with which the refugees have so far clung to remaining as close to the border of Kosovo as they possibly can. They are showing a great reluctance to be moved to often safer, more hygienic camps away from the immediate border. There are reasons for that. They feel that they will lose the chance of finding members of their family whom they have not seen for some time. They feel that it will reduce their chances of getting back to their land. They may even have come across in tractors and feel that they are losing their own agricultural equipment. For whatever reason, they show a quite remarkable intensity of desire to go back, knowing full well that the villages to which they will return have been ransacked, looted and often burnt almost to the ground.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, asked how far plans were looking ahead beyond next winter. First, I ought to tell your Lordships that we are looking ahead to next winter and trying to make our contribution towards ensuring that there will be adequate warm shelter for any refugees who are still outside Kosovo when the winter snows come, which is usually about October in that part of the world.
The noble Lord was good enough to mention the Prime Minister's reference to a Marshall Plan for the region as a whole. There is a general feeling throughout Europe that we must do something for the region as a whole. We have made it clear that we wish to accelerate the admission to the European Union and NATO of the various frontline states that might want to join those institutions. But membership is not within the gift of this country. Discussions on the matter are not at the top of the list of priorities because we have more urgent matters to discuss with our allies at the moment.
The noble Lord speculated about what proportion of an eventual KFOR might be British. He suggested possibly 20,000 out of 60,000. There is no point in my playing with figures at the Dispatch Box this afternoon, if noble Lords will forgive me. It depends very much on the contributions of our allies. I remind noble Lords that there are about 3,500 German troops in Macedonia at the moment. There are over 2,000 Italian troops in Macedonia and Albania and over 2,000 French troops also in Macedonia. No fewer than 13 air forces have been involved in flying NATO missions in current operations. It is a remarkable state of affairs.
The noble Lord asked me about the Dutch element in 3 Commando Brigade. Off the top of my head I cannot give the answer, but I will certainly write to him with it. The Dutch are present in Macedonia and have 155 mm guns with them as part of their heavy equipment, if I am correctly informed.
Nothing going on in Macedonia is impeding moves towards future European co-ordination in defence matters, and in the Ministry of Defence we are engaged from day to day in discussing various European procurement matters which I am sure the noble Lord would applaud.
Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, I am sure my noble friend shares my feeling of anger and frustration that despite deploying the full might of NATO and inflicting that great list of damage on the Serbian armed forces and, in addition, the Serbian economy, nevertheless we have been unable to give any practical assistance to prevent the expulsion of the people of Kosovo from their own land. The figure of three-quarters of the population expelled gives clear evidence of the magnitude of the catastrophe and the tragedy in which we are inevitably now a player. Along with others, we must try to extricate ourselves from it.
I have no doubt that we will prevail. Even with bombing from 15,000 feet, there will come a point when the Serbs give up and we shall be able to deploy the troops. But I must say to my noble friend that, as he is well aware, the timescale must now be uncertain. The Serbs have survived two months and in a few months' time it will be winter. The preparations in two months' time will have to take full account of the approach of winter. With that in mind we must now make substantial provision for refugees who will remain, even though many will desire to go back, when they will have no homes to go to and no communities to connect with. Many will have to be looked after in Macedonia. I hope that preparations on a serious scale are now being made.
My last question to my noble friend is this. I was glad to hear what he said about bringing the Russians into an occupying force. That is important. I wish to know whether he has anything further to say about the progress of diplomacy, which must surely still be that we have a two-pronged approach. It must help to bring this ghastly tragedy to an end.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page