Kosovo

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th November 1992.

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Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson , Eastbourne 12:00 am, 25th November 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Government's policy towards Kosovo.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The special group on Kosovo within the international conference on the former Yugoslavia is working intensively with both Serbian and Kosovar representatives. We strongly support its efforts. We believe that the Serbian authorities should grant the Kosovars autonomy with full civil rights, and that the Kosovars should accept that.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson , Eastbourne

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that Kosovo could be the next victim of Serb expansionism? What other measures does he think could be taken, as a matter of urgency, to reduce tension in the area and to protect the 90 per cent. of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo who are being oppressed and denied their civil liberties?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My hon. Friend has made an important point. The issue of the Kosovars was addressed directly by the London conference, and it is now being discussed by the working group in Geneva. It has also been the subject of talks in Kosovo itself. As my hon. Friend may know, there is now a Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe team in Kosovo, whose primary function is to try to defuse tension. We shall explore other possibilities in our attempts to reduce the risk of violence breaking out.

Photo of Robert Wareing Robert Wareing , Liverpool, West Derby

Will the Minister give an assurance, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, that on no account will the Government permit the export of arms and military equipment to Albania—equipment that could be used to create a conflagration in Kosovo, thus giving support to the extreme nationalists on both sides of the divide in that troubled province?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

We would be very disturbed if we saw any evidence that the Albanian Government were seeking in any way to foment trouble in Kosovo. That would be a very serious development.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the way in which the vast majority of the population in Kosovo are treated is utterly inexcusable and unacceptable? Does he further accept that many of us feel that, if the west had taken rather firmer and more united action last year, the tragedy of Bosnia could perhaps have been prevented? We now face possible tragedies not only in Kosovo, but in Macedonia. Will my right hon. and learned Friend assure me that Her Majesty's Government are well aware of that?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Repressive action by the Serbian forces in Kosovo would indeed be a serious escalation of what is already a very grave situation—not least because of the risk that such action could pose to adjoining states. That fact would certainly be in the minds of Security Council members if they had to determine what might be the appropriate response to an outbreak of violence It n Kosovo.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

At the end of his answer to the original question, the Minister said that the people in Kosovo must accept Serbian rule, given certain conditions on human rights. That, surely, is an indefensible position. If 90 per cent. of the population in a defined area want to assert self-determination, that is their right, and that is what we have signed up to in the United Nations. Will the Minister change his view?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

That is not what we signed up to in the United Nations; nor is it a correct summary of what we signed up to in the CSCE. There is a serious problem: whether or not one is prepared to unstitch frontiers that have already been agreed and that have been in existence for a very long time. If we embarked on that policy, we would create many greater difficulties in central and eastern Europe more generally. We believe that the proper way to address the position of the Kosovars is by way of autonomy. That is what we are working towards.

Photo of Lady Olga Maitland Lady Olga Maitland , Sutton and Cheam

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the only way to guarantee true peace to the people of Kosovo is to ensure that there are genuinely free and fair elections in Belgrade on 20 December? In that way, Mr. Milosevic could be toppled in his endeavours to carry on with his oppression. Will my right hon. and learned Friend therefore consider giving wholehearted support to Mr. Panic?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

I certainly agree that it is important that there should be fair and free elections on 20 December in Serbia, but one should not assume that such elections would not be won by Mr. Milosevic. He might well win them.

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson , Hamilton

The Minister was careful not to answer the question about the sale to Albania of arms which might be used in Kosovo. Could he possibly give a straight answer now to what was a straight question? Did not the British ambassador to Albania send back a message and make it public that he believed that the situation in Kosovo was extremely dangerous? Today, the Financial Timessays that the Minister of State has not yet instilled into those working under him a strong sense of urgency. What can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say to reassure the House that Kosovo will not be the next Bosnia?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

I have made it plain, in answer to a variety of questions, that we attach great importance to trying to defuse the tension in Kosovo. If there were to be an outbreak of violence, it could involve a number of adjoining states. That is why we placed such a high priority on that subject at the London conference, why we are so firmly behind the talks now going on in Geneva and why we welcome the deployment of the CSCE team in Kosovo. We most certainly will seek to explore other ways of reducing the risk of an outbreak of violence in Kosovo.