Bosnia

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 Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South 12:00 am, 25th November 1992

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his EC colleagues regarding the situation in Bosnia; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The situation in Bosnia has been discussed at every recent meeting of European Community Foreign Ministers, most recently in Brussels on 9 November and with Western European Union partners in Rome on 20 November.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

No one would wish to pretend that the situation in Bosnia is simple; far from it. Although we are arming dictatorships as far apart as Indonesia and Saudi Arabia—we were secretly training terrorists in Cambodia until the autumn of 1989—is there nothing that we can do to help the people of Bosnia to resist the ethnic cleansers?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Not by relaxing the arms embargo; but of course we must help. There are four things that we should do. One is to keep up the pressures to end the war, and the hon. Gentleman will have seen the increase in sanctions and last week's Adriatic stop-and-search resolution. Another is to get the humanitarian help through, including food and medicines, which is what the Cheshires are doing. We can also provide that help; the United Kingdom's assistance to the former Yugoslavia is £79 million to date. We must also create the basis for a political settlement, which is what Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance are doing all the time on our behalf. Those are the four main pressures that we must continue to apply.

Photo of Mr Michael Colvin Mr Michael Colvin , Romsey and Waterside

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that, in his discussions with our EC partners, he has their agreement that, in seeking a solution to the problem in Bosnia, partitioning of that country is completely ruled out, as that would only marginalise the Muslim population and could lead to a holy war, which would drag in other countries?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

It is, I hope, clearly understood that our European partners, the United States and the United Nations will not accept the partitioning of Bosnia-Herzegovina between Serbia and Croatia.

Photo of Mr Calum MacDonald Mr Calum MacDonald , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

Does the Foreign Secretary recall the Minister of State, the right hon. and learned Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), telling the House on 16 November that the Government had no evidence of any breaches of the air exclusion zone over Bosnia? Has the Foreign Secretary seen the report in The Times yesterday where Mr. Cedric Thornberry, the deputy head of the United Nations protection force, says that there have been more than 100 breaches of the exclusion zone in the past month? Were the Government aware of those breaches? Now that they are aware of them, will they return to the Security Council and get effective action to stop them?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

My right hon. and learned Friend and the hon. Gentleman are talking about two separate things. My right hon. and learned Friend was talking about attack missions—the use of planes based on airfields for attack. The hon. Gentleman is talking about a different category. If there are Serb air attacks from those fields, the hon. Gentleman is right—we will have to go back to the Security Council for further measures.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Davyhulme

Is it not unprecedented that the victims of aggression—the Bosnian Muslims—should be subjected to a United Nations arms embargo? Is it not the inevitable consequence of that policy that they will relentlessly be driven out of the positions that they hold and their positions will be overrun, adding to the number of refugees on the move in Europe which has been unprecedented since the second world war?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The arms embargo applies to all parties. If the embargo is relaxed for one party, in practice it will have to be relaxed for all. I do not believe that that would be a step forward in the search for either peace or justice in the former Yugoslavia.

Dr. John Cunningham:

As the whole case of the European Community and the United Nations in seeking a solution to the tragedy in Bosnia is based on the peace process and is buttressed by mandatory arms embargos and economic sanctions against Serbia, will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that none of our European Community partners is breaching that embargo? Why are at least some of our European partners breaking the economic sanctions and turning a blind eye to the embargo? Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will take urgent steps to stop the breaches?

Finally, in connection with the tragedy in the former Yugoslavia, is it not ominous that on three occasions this afternoon the Minister of State, the right hon. and learned Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), refused to rule out the sale of arms to Albania?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's first point. Where there is evidence that either part of the mandatory embargo—the supply of arms to any of the parties, or trade in embargoed items to Serbia and Montenegro—has been broken, that evidence must be followed through, whoever pointed the finger, and those breaches must be stopped. I shall not add to what my right hon. and learned Friend said about the supply of arms.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

Can we be a little less diplomatic and a little more blunt? Is not the reality that the Serbs are swimming in the arms of the Yugoslav army? They have the arms and they are the aggressors. The Bosnians are the victims and they have no arms. If there were any justice in this world, we would offer our support to the victims and allow them to defend themselves with arms, rather than sustaining the aggressors. Have we in this country lost our courage?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

That is not what would happen. The whole country of Bosnia-Herzegovina is awash with arms. The arms are in the hands of central commands and warlords throughout the country and the various denominations who are not under any control. We would not do any service to the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whatever their origins, if we increased the supply of arms into that chaotic country. That is the view of all our partners in the European Community and of the United States.