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Angola: South African Military Operations

Volume 447: debated on Thursday 2 February 1984

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3.34 p.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what measures they are taking to counteract the South African invasion of Angola.

My Lords, we made clear at the time that we deplored the recent South African military operations and that Angolan sovereignty should be fully respected. The South Africans have now announced the disengagement from Angola of their forces. We hope this will be fully implemented. We hope, too, that renewed diplomatic contacts will help to reduce tensions in the region and help progress towards a Namibian settlement.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Minister for that reply, and particularly for his recognition that this is an open and flagrant invasion of a sovereign terrritory by a foreign power. Can he tell the House what action the British Government have taken, or are proposing to take, at the United Nations, which was created precisely for the purpose of protecting the sovereignty of states against foreign invasion?

My Lords, we of course supported Security Council Resolution 545, which referred to this matter in fairly trenchant terms. We are happy to see that the views of the United Nations, I presume, and of those who have made their views known to the South African Government in other ways, have had some effect, and that the disengagement I have referred to is now taking place.

My Lords, would my noble friend the Minister not agree that this crisis would not have occurred, and that the future benevolent development of Angola might have been assured, had it not been for the intervention of the government of Cuba—at the behest, no doubt, of their Soviet friends—whose intervention has been entirely destructive and has had no relation to the plight of their own suffering people?

My Lords, my noble friend is of course quite right in saying that the presence of foreign troops in this part of the world, as elsewhere, in no way contributes to the solution of the problems we are talking about.

My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that this is perhaps not the best occasion for discussing difficult questions of international law across the Floor of the House? Is he aware that in Africa it has become the custom of communist states to entertain raiders and assassins who go across the borders to raid their neighbours; that this is what has been happening in Angola; and that the South Africans, who are the protectors of Angola, have driven them out and have followed the international law right of pursuit? Is he further aware that it is for that reason that, in that most unhappy continent, South—West Africa is one of the few places which is not starving and is in fact prosperous, and that if we take any action at all here it should be to send our congratulations to the South Africans for their good services?

My Lords, I never cease to be amazed, I must say, by the views of the noble Lord, speaking, as he does, from his position on that side of the House. Be that as it may, I think that the problems that we are discussing this afternoon—the various military operations, or invasions as some would call them—only point to the fact that a solution must be found. We believe it is best found not by violence but by discussion and by negotiation.

My Lords, while dissociating myself and my noble friends from the emotional views of my noble friend, may I ask the noble Lord whether he will answer a short, practical question? Could he say whether the talks which are to take place between the United States of America and South Africa will in fact occur before the ending of the current ceasefire?

My Lords, I hope that they will, but I cannot give an assurance that that will be so because, of course, it is not for me.

My Lords, arising from the supplementary question from my noble friend sitting by my side, could the noble Lord say whether any representations have been made to the Angolan government, perhaps by the Group of Five, asking for the withdrawal of Cuban troops and their Soviet advisers from Angola?

My Lords, my noble friend will be aware that we do not necessarily see a linkage between the matter to which my noble friend refers and other matters in that part of the world, but I can assure my noble friend that the Angolan government are in no doubt about our views.

My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that the United States of America has joined with the British Government in a totally different view of why Cuban troops are in Angola from that offered by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, who made a most amazing statement? It would have been better if he had applied it to the CIA. In so far as both America and Britain now agree on an essential point, would it not be a good starting point for the five nations to try to restart discussions to get Namibia free of the grasp of South Africa?

My Lords, I have to tell the noble Lord that matters are not as simple as he may imagine and that progress will not be made easily or, I fear, soon. The British Government stand ready to make whatever contribution they can to these discussions.

My Lords, will the noble Lord the Minister tell his friends behind him that, on the authority of no less than the CIA, the Cuban advisers and troops entered Angola only after the South African invasion? Does he agree that one of the major elements in any settlement for the future independence of Namibia now depends on the breaking of the linkage which the United States appears to continue to insist on between the withdrawal of Cuban troops and the application of the United Nations resolution for the independence of Namibia?

My Lords, I am not sure where the noble Lord got the ideas which emerged from the first part of his supplementary question. I fancy he has been watching too many television serials. In relation to the last part, our position I made clear in the answer I gave to my noble friend just now.

My Lords, is the noble Lords saying that it has not been established that the Cubans only entered Angola after the South Africans?

My Lords, I was answering the question that I thought the noble Lord had put to me about the linkage between the withdrawal of the South Africans and the withdrawal of the Cubans. The answer that I gave was the same answer I gave to my noble friend Lord Bessborough.

My Lords, is it not totally true that in South Africa, immoral and wrong though the internal policies may be, the Afrikaaners have a long history of settlement in southern Africa and it affects their very lives however badly and wrongly they are behaving, whereas the Cubans have nothing whatsoever to do with South Africa? They have been sent over there as hatchet boys—it is as simple as that—by a gang of thugs in the Kremlin.

My Lords, the important thing is that the people of Namibia should be allowed to choose for themselves what sort of government they require.