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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am sure that there are many excellent chess players in NATO headquarters. As regards surprise moves, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is right and that they are not without precedent, if I may put it that way. I believe that what has been agreed in a telephone conversation between my right honourable friend and the Russian Foreign Minister will hold up. It is that there should be prior agreement with NATO countries before any more Russian troops are moved into Kosovo. There is an agreement to carry through the principles in the Security Council resolution for the shape of the peacekeeping force. Of course, the Security Council resolution makes it absolutely clear that there must be a unified chain of command and that the objective is to create a single, whole Kosovo under international administration.
These points of principle have been agreed between my right honourable friend and his counterpart. But it is amazing, in view of what has happened during the past 10 weeks, how well the relationship with Russia has stood up. No one denies that it has undergone a good deal of strain, but it is remarkable that, throughout, the relationship remained remarkably robust, that the channels of communication have been opened and that we are in a position to act as joint partners in a peacekeeping force.
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that poker is a more challenging game than chess and it is wrong to portray the swashbuckling antics of the Russian forces as some kind of publicity stunt? The truth is that a lack of clarity has been exposed between their foreign and defence ministries, which should be of serious concern to the NATO commanders who have to deal with the Russian authorities. Can my noble friend say whether General Zavarzin disobeyed NATO orders when he pulled his troops out of Bosnia and whether the SACEUR knew that he was pulling out his troops and directed them to stay?
Secondly, can my noble friend say something more about the stability pact to which she referred? This morning I returned from the Western European Union in Paris where the gossip in the corridors was that there is a jockeying for position as to where the headquarters of the distribution of those funds will be located, perhaps in Hungary, Greece or wherever. Can my noble friend assure me that wherever the office is located,
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, my noble friend invites me to make a judgment on the relative merits in the context of chess and poker. Having always been hopeless at both, I find it difficult. Bridge has always been my forte, if at all. It is important that we do not dwell on this issue. The whole House knows that the Russians have not found this easy and that it has been a difficult few days for them, too. I have no doubt that within Russia there are considerable diplomatic strains.
My noble friend asked me to dissect the reasons for what happened. The honest truth is that I do not know what happened or whether someone disobeyed someone else. However, I suggest to my noble friend that while such questions are interesting they are not helpful. What is helpful is to build on the understanding of my right honourable friend and his counterpart, which was reached at the weekend, and to ensure that that understanding, with its three principal aspects, will be nurtured and cherished in order to ensure that a relationship with Russia continues to the full over this period.
My noble friend asked about the stability pact which was launched on 10th June. It is important because it provides for a forum for discussion for countries in the region on how to operate on a range of issues. We believe that European integration will be faster and more inclusive as a result. All participants were consulted when the stability pact ideas were being worked out. When countries have told us that they have concerns about the pact, we have made the EU presidency aware of those concerns.
I know that there are difficulties in working out the detail and no doubt we shall report further to your Lordships on that, but I believe that Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that the stability pact provides us with a real means of meeting the interests of all the participants who are covered by it.
The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, I congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the selection and maintenance of their aim. But secondly, I congratulate the Royal Air Force on enabling us to go in with our ground forces and ensure that President Milosevic threw in his hand. Finally, I congratulate the ground forces who have moved in to secure peace.
The noble Baroness mentioned the interim administration. Will she assure us that it will use the Albanian leaders at all levels to assist in establishing peace in this war-torn area and encourage the restraint of extreme elements who are extremely embittered by what has happened to the local population?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, for those remarks. I would also wish to add our thanks to all our allies, as I am sure he would. I commented a moment ago, to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, upon the remarkable way in
The noble Earl asked us to consider the political future of what is happening in Kosovo. We know that the Kosovo Albanians are a fractured group in many ways. Different groups speak for different parts of the ethnic community. We are encouraging them to realise the importance of rebuilding Kosovo and to move towards a process of free and fair elections.
It has been agreed that the political settlement will take account of the Rambouillet Accords. We have discussed such matters on a number of occasions in your Lordships' House. The mechanisms that are set up, the parliament or assembly, should reflect the views of all the ethnic groups in Kosovo. The OSCE are charged with the oversight of this. A great deal of work has to be done by them, including the setting up of an electoral register. It will not have escaped anybody's attention that a great number of the Kosovo Albanians have been robbed of their identity. There will be all kinds of matters of that nature to be dealt with including restoring people's identity papers to them, setting up electoral registers and ensuring that the whole panoply of the civil administration works. The OSCE will be looking forward to that and, I hope, to the elections, in due course.
The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, perhaps I may take the opportunity of congratulating the noble Baroness on the marvellous quick-witted cool with which, week after week, she handles questions on this very complicated matter. We admire her very much for that. I wanted to say that last week but I was unable to get in.
I have several questions for the noble Baroness which I hope she will take in good part, as she always does. First, during the original Statement which she repeated she mentioned that in some way we will rely on the support of the KLA. Is it not the case that the United Nations resolution requires, among other things, the disarmament of the KLA? Will that be achieved and has its disarmament started yet?
Secondly, while we are busy congratulating ourselves on a great victory, is it not the case that when this operation started, the idea was to remove Milosevic; but he is still there as large as life, indeed larger than he ever was? Finally, with regard to the political problems of the future, the noble Baroness very rightly pointed out that a great deal needs to be done in running any kind of democratic election when we do not even have an electoral register and when people's identities are very much in question following the atrocities triggered by the KLA in the first place.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, for his kind words. I know he has very strong feelings about this issue. He has been very kind in the way in which he has put his questions.
However, we were not congratulating ourselves upon a victory. The Statement of my right honourable friend makes clear that the time for congratulations will come only when we have ensured that the refugees are able to return to their homes in safety. We have not completed that job. We are only part of the way through--an important part, it is true, but we are nowhere near completion of the task we set ourselves among the objectives.
I remind the noble Earl that one of those objectives was not the removal of President Milosovic. Your Lordships have asked me on a number of occasions whether his removal was, I believe the words used were, "one of the war aims". I have told your Lordships on a number of occasions that, much as we believe that Serbia will be better off without Mr Milosevic, that is a matter for the people of Serbia. It has not been one of our war aims to remove him from power.
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