Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th January 1979.

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Photo of Mr Peter Temple-Morris Mr Peter Temple-Morris , Leominster 12:00 am, 17th January 1979

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is Her Majesty's Government's attitude towards recent events within Namibia; and what efforts are being made by the five Western powers to achieve a peaceful settlement in that country.

Photo of Dr David Owen Dr David Owen , Plymouth, Devonport

The Government welcome the visit which the United Nations Secretary General's special representative is currently paying to Namibia. The five Governments hope that, following South Africa's decision to co-operate in the implementation of Security Council resolution 435, United Nations supervised elections can be held in Namibia later this year.

Photo of Mr Peter Temple-Morris Mr Peter Temple-Morris , Leominster

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that it appears that the South Africans and the United Nations are agreed that the next elections will be held on 30th September of this year? In those circumstances, may I ask the Foreign Secretary to do his utmost to ensure that, first, there is no delay, and, second, that there is a cease-fire and an end to acts of violence within Namibia? Is he aware that all those circumstances, in their turn, could easily prevent the successful holding of those elections? Will he do his utmost to ensure that those two essential criteria are upheld?

Photo of Dr David Owen Dr David Owen , Plymouth, Devonport

I agree very strongly with the hon. Gentleman that the sooner elections are held the better, and that the sooner a new constitution and independence come to Namibia the better. A prerequisite of that, incorporated within the proposals put forward by the five Western powers, was the necessity to have peace—and to have no violence—in the territory. We all agree that in a violent situation it would be exteremeley difficult to hold democratic elections. Peace, therefore, is absolutely essential and we shall work for it as will, I believe, the other African States surrounding Namibia.

Photo of Mr Bruce Grocott Mr Bruce Grocott , Lichfield and Tamworth

What credence does my right hon. Friend give to assurances given by the Government of South Africa that they are interested in seeing that there should be fair elections in Namibia when they do not have the slightest intention, in their lifetime, of seeing that there are any fair elections in South Africa?

Photo of Dr David Owen Dr David Owen , Plymouth, Devonport

There is a difference. There is no doubt that South Africa adopts a different stance to the rights of black Namibians—indeed, even black Rhodesians to a lesser extent—than it is prepared to countenance for black South Africans. I have to deal with the situation as it is and I have to work with the South African Government. The fact is that this position is a formidable advance on the situation as it looked in August and September of last year.

Photo of Mr Francis Pym Mr Francis Pym , Cambridgeshire

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on the Opposition Benches welcome the developments that have taken place concerning Namibia? Is it not the case that all the parties involved in Namibia now agree that elections on this basis—under United Nations' auspices—should take place, and, consequently, are not the omens good?

In support of my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris), may I ask the Foreign Secretary to make sure that he uses all his influence to ensure that there is no slip back in what has been proposed? Does he agree that it is most important that the supervising forces of the United Nations should be made up of disciplined and impartial military units drawn from countries which have taken a balanced view of this situation?

Photo of Dr David Owen Dr David Owen , Plymouth, Devonport

I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I have spent a great deal of time on this issue because I believe that it has great importance for Southern Africa generally. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, the question of the composition of the force is a matter for the Secretary General. It has always been the objective of the United Nations, in any of its peace-keeping operations, to ensure that a United Nations force is broadly acceptable to all those who will be in contact with it. It can never make an absolute commitment or give a veto to any one power or country. The United Nations has reconciled all the different views in every one of its peace-keeping operations, and I am confident that Dr. Waldheim will be able to do so with Namibia.

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that SWAPO will have a free and unfettered opportunity to contest these elections, without any intimidation, harassment or interference from the South African authorities?

Photo of Dr David Owen Dr David Owen , Plymouth, Devonport

Yes, I am. I believe that Mr. Ahtisaari, whose involvement in this issue is long-standing, will ensure—this is one of the major tasks of United Nations supervised elections—that all parties have a fair chance of putting their case and of forming the new Government of an independent Namibia. I believe that, subject to some matters that still need to be negotiated and decided, SWAPO will decide to return to Namibia and co-operate fully in the elections.

Photo of Mr Michael Latham Mr Michael Latham , Melton

Do the five Western demarche powers in the contact group regard the number of United Nations observers as being negotiable?

Photo of Dr David Owen Dr David Owen , Plymouth, Devonport

I believe that this has been clarified since the Secretary General put forward his proposals. Those clarifications which we undertook in Pretoria, but most importantly those undertaken in direct discussions between Dr. Waldheim and Mr. Pik Botha, the South African Foreign Minister, and in subsequent discussions, have ensured that everyone can live with the terms of the Secretary General's report.