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Volume 226: debated on Wednesday 16 June 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on relations between the United Kingdom and the republic of Macedonia.

We gave full support to the admission of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia to the United Nations on 8 April, thereby implicitly recognising the country as an independent foreign state. We now have a British presence in Skopje. I visited the country on 4 June and held talks with President Gligorov and acting Foreign Minister Crvenkovski.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he join me in welcoming the reported decision by the United States to deploy American troops on the frontiers between Macedonia and her neighbours to try to prevent border incursions? Does he agree that it might be a good idea if one or two European countries that have declined to contribute their troops to the humanitarian effort in Bosnia and have instead chosen to carp from the sidelines considered following that American example?

The Americans were following the European example in this respect. A Nordic battalion—Swedes, Norwegians and, I think, Finns and Danes—is already established in Macedonia. I hope that the mandates of both the Scandinavians and the Americans now joining can be interpreted or enlarged in such a way that they will be able to help the Macedonians to enforce sanctions. There is no doubt that the main breach of sanctions is now taking place through Macedonia. For the reasons that have already been discussed, it is extremely important that the economic and financial pressures on Serbia should be made effective.

Will the Foreign Secretary, in his discussions with all the people concerned with these matters, remind them that they had better not take a blind bit of notice of what the Liberal Democrats and their leader say on the subject? Three months ago the leader of the Liberal Democrats wanted to bomb the hell out of Serbia and to send in more troops, yet, to a thin House last Friday morning, he said that the troops should be pulled out.

I have read in Hansard the hon. Gentleman's remarks about what the leader of the Liberal Democratic party said last Friday and I agree with them. Will he please continue to monitor the right hon. Gentleman?

While we must all hope that the bloodshed in Bosnia will not spill over into Macedonia, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether Her Majesty's Government will ensure that we do not see in Macedonia a repetition of the declaration of safe havens which has been so disastrous in the case of Bosnia, where there was no evident United Nations determination to deploy forces to make areas safe? Have not these safe havens been just a cruel deception, which has undermined the authority of the United Nations?

Safe havens are an attempt to save people's lives. We started with humanitarian convoys. Then we moved on, despite considerable scepticism. Some European countries provided troops to escort the convoys and enable them to get through. We are seeking to move to the stage of making places safe, but that depends on a Security Council resolution—there is such a resolution—on a degree of local agreement and on the provision of more troops. What is necessary cannot be done without more troops. We are doing our bit, as are the French. Success relies on more countries coming forward in response to the Secretary-General's appeal and some countries are coming forward. Some Scandinavian countries are responding and the Secretary-General is now putting the list together. The greater the number of troops that can be brought in, the safer the areas will become and the more likely it will be that some reality will emerge from the rhetoric of which my hon. Friend complains.

Does the Secretary of State realise how ironic it is that he should be talking about Macedonia in the same terms as about Bosnia? We recognise Bosnia. Is not everyone worried that when Croatia and Serbia have carved up Bosnia, they will turn to other targets? The shame that we shall have to wade through will be similar to what we have done in Bosnia and what is happening in Croatia. In fact, we may find ourselves throwing paper at the antagonists, as the right hon. Gentleman says has been done in the case of the Washington agreement. We should be talking about putting together a peace-making force to guarantee Macedonia's boarders. At the moment, all that we have is a few troops from a few countries.

The position in Macedonia is different. The hon. Gentleman will agree that the great majority—about 90 per cent.—of those fighting in Bosnia are Bosnians. They are helped and encouraged from outside, particularly from Serbia. There is no substantial Serb minority in Macedonia.

However, the hon. Gentleman is the only one I have heard who is in favour of sending a military expedition into Bosnia to impose a solution. I respect the honesty of his views, although I do not share them.