I will with permission, Mr. Speaker, make a statement on Rhodesia.
The early weeks of the Geneva conference were spent in discussing the date by which Rhodesia would achieve independence as the new sovereign State of Zimbabwe. This discussion, while it absorbed a great deal of time, was helpful in demonstrating conclusively to all the participants that the object of the conference really is to launch Rhodesia on the road to independence under majority rule.
For the past fortnight, the discussions have focused on the central issue—the structure and functions of the transitional Government. While no agreement has been reached, good progress has been made in identifying and clarifying the views of the different parties, and the points that must be settled before a transitional Government can be established.
After consulting Mr. Ivor Richard last week, I have concluded that the stage has now been reached where Britain should attempt to give a fresh impetus to the search for a solution. But it is clear to me that this process is more likely to be successful if it is not initiated during the normal meetings of the conference. We now need a further period of intensive consultations, in Southern Africa, to enable us to lay the foundations for an agreement on this fundamental question. I have therefore authorised the Chairman to adjourn the conference to permit such consultations to take place.
The conference will go into recess today and will resume in Geneva on 17th January. I have asked Mr. Richard, as the Government's Special Representative, to leave for Africa immediately after Christmas in order to consult all the parties concerned. He will develop our positive ideas for a settlement, which will include in particular the direct rôlewhich Britain would be ready to play in the transitional period. If, at the end of his consultations, it proved necessary or desirable, I would myself go either to Africa or to the resumed conference at Geneva.
The House will understand that I must refrain from setting out our ideas in detail today. I would say only that our intention will be to meet the concern of the nationalists that the process of transition to independence should be rapid and guaranteed, and the anxieties of the Europeans that it should be orderly.
It is, Mr. Speaker, the general feeling amongst the delegates at Geneva that an adjournment of some weeks would now be the best way of carrying forward our work to a successful conclusion. I may add that Dr. Kissinger, whom I consulted over the weekend, also strongly supports the proposed procedure. For all the angry statements which are made from time to time, we have, in my view. a good chance of achieving a peaceful settlement in Rhodesia.