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Volume 986: debated on Wednesday 18 June 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if, at the next meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will raise the matter of Afghanistan.

NATO members consult on all matters of topical interest. I have no doubt that my right hon. and noble Friend will discuss Afghanistan with his NATO colleagues at the Ankara meeting of the NATO council, which begins on 25 June.

While being strongly opposed to the invasion of Afghanistan, does the Minister support the supply from America of large quantities of arms to the rebels, as evidenced by Western sources, including such reliable people as United Press International and others?

Our evidence is that the Afghan freedom fighters get most of their arms from defecting Afghan soldiers.

Is my hon. Friend reminded by the current situation in Afghanistan of similar, but not identical, events that took place in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968? Will he give an assurance that all possible help, aid and equipment, short of manpower, is being provided for the freedom fighters, who are fighting not only for their own freedom but for ours?

This war, unlike the other episodes to which my hon. Friend refers has continued for much longer and is getting more intense as more Russian troops arrive and as Afghans in almost every province show that they are determined to resist Soviet occupation of their country.

On the more general questions raised by Afghanistan, the Minister will recall that one of the immediate responses of Her Majesty's Government was not to renew the credit terms on which Britain used to sell goods to the Soviet Union. Will the Minister say whether there have been discussions with other NATO countries or within the EEC about measures of a similar kind being contemplated? What is the state of those discussions?

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has reminded the House of the step that we took against soft credit for the Soviet Union. Discussions on this matter in OECD—the forum for them—take place from time to time but there is not yet a unified approach.