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The Belgrade Conference And Detente

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 29 November 1977

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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether our representative at the Belgrade Conference has drawn the attention of the Conference to the military intervention of the USSR in African States at the moment at war with each other.

My Lords, in my opening statement to the Belgrade meeting on 6th October I stressed the Government's view that détente is indivisible and cannot be confined to Europe. The United Kingdom delegation has made it clear in subsequent interventions that the United Kingdom expects all the CSCE signatory States to honour their commitment to conduct their relations with all other States in the spirit of the principles set out in the Helsinki Final Act.

My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that Answer—and I am delighted that he should have said what he did at that time—may I ask whether our present representative at Belgrade has made equally suitable noises?

My Lords, perhaps I can make available to the noble Baroness in another form, possibly by means of a letter, the course of the discussions so far in Belgrade covering the point she has in mind.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the House would no doubt welcome the assurance that our delegation have been less generalised in their representations in this matter? What the noble Lord has quoted is very much like saying we are all against sin.

My Lords, I can assure the noble Earl and the House that our delegation have been very active indeed in precise and complete criticism of the shortcomings of implementation so far, and in putting forward, in concert with other countries, proposals for greatly strengthened implementation in the future of the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that Mr. Arthur Goldberg, the American representative, stated on television last night that the debates and discussions and deliberations at Belgrade are confined to the document agreed at Helsinki? He also remarked that they are treating the Russians politely. Is that the case with the British representative?—because if he is short of words that are the antithesis of being polite, I can supply them.

No doubt, my Lords. Whether the noble Lord's somewhat trenchant vocabulary would achieve the objectives he has in mind is quite another matter. As to the basis of the review meeting, as it is called, it is about the document which was signed by 35 States in Helsinki. That is the basis of the discussion. We and a very large number of other countries involved—not exclusively from the West, but also from the neutral and non-aligned world—have decided that the best way to get good results from this review meeting is to be studiously polite but very firm.

My Lords, would the noble Lord consider going through the undertakings made at Helsinki, clause by clause, and pointing out specifically where Russia has deliberately failed to carry out the undertakings given there, in particular in regard to the deployment of, now, 19,000 Cuban troops, encouraged, transported and armed by Russia, in 10 different black African States?

My Lords, I think the first part of the noble Lord's question sums up fairly accurately the procedures agreed on at the preparatory meetings and now carried on in the substantive meetings; that is, the closed plenaries and the sub-commissions of the Conference. As to what he has to say about Cuba, I think I can usefully reinforce it by repeating at least one phrase from my original Answer. I stressed the Government's view that détente is in-divisible and cannot be confined Europe.

My Lords, will the Government send a message of congratulations to the forces of Rhodesia who have won a notable victory over the Russian-trained satellite in Mozambique? After all, it is some time since the West have had a victory.

My Lords, really I thought we were talking about détente and not destruction.

My Lords, do the Government really think there is any hope or prospect of the Soviet Government's abiding by their non-binding obligations under the Helsinki Final Act?

Progressively, yes, my Lords. The point is—and I am sure the noble Lord, with his vast experience of diplomacy, understands this better than any of us—that this is not something that can be achieved overnight. A clash of fundamental philosophies and systems is involved here. Therefore, it will be a very long haul indeed, during which, by proper politeness as well as firmness, those two sectors of world thinking and world practice may hope to come progressively closer to each other in the implementation of the principles set out in the Helsinki Final Act. It will take a long time.

My Lords, while on the subject of conferences for the furtherance of détente and peace, can the Minister say whether the United Kingdom will be represented at the forthcoming conference in Cairo?