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Partnership For Peace Programme

Volume 591: debated on Thursday 2 July 1998

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3.33 p.m.

Whether they intend to support NATO's reported "Partnership for Peace" programme in Kosovo; and whether they intend to contribute troops or aircraft to this project.

My Lords, NATO has no Partnership for Peace programme with Kosovo, an area in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The UK is contributing to work in NATO on military options to support the current diplomatic initiative. Those options include Partnership for Peace exercises with the neighbouring countries of Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. We will be contributing land and air forces to the exercise for peace support operations in Macedonia in September. We also intend to participate in the exercise for peace support and humanitarian assistance in Albania in August.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply, which comes partly as a relief to all of us. However, can he say whether the ethnic Albanians are thought to be legitimate subjects of Yugoslavia or illegal immigrants?

My Lords, they are part of the Republic of Yugoslavia. But, as the noble Earl is aware, there are immense difficulties and danger there. I repeat that at the moment we are trying to bring about a solution by peaceful and diplomatic means. However, NATO is prepared for any option that is required if those efforts fail.

My Lords, with the conflict escalating dangerously, can the Minister inform the House specifically whether, in the Government's view, NATO military intervention in Kosovo could take place without new UN resolutions?

My Lords, the position is that we are attempting to bring about a settlement by diplomatic means. If those means fail and Belgrade does not meet the demands, there will be moves for further measures, including some that may require the authorisation of a United Nations Security Council resolution. It is clear that not all the measures would require such a resolution. In any event, we will require proper legal authority for whatever we do in that area.

My Lords, one of the lessons of Bosnia is that early intervention would have saved a great many lives and left less of a legacy of bitterness. Can the noble Lord assure us that the Government are treating this with rather more urgency than is suggested when one talks about the possibility of taking part in an exercise in September?

My Lords, of course. The main point is that we are attempting to bring about a solution, I repeat, by diplomatic means. The next meeting of the Contact Group takes place in Bonn on 8th July. As the Contact Group includes Russia, we will consider at that meeting what are the next steps to take. Our aim is always to support and encourage dialogue between all sides and the focus must be that that dialogue is brought about by diplomatic efforts. However, if at the end of the day those efforts fail, no options have been ruled out and at this stage NATO continues to review all the options.

My Lords, can my noble friend tell me whether the Government agree with the view of Mr. Richard Holbrook that it is unrealistic to expect Serbia to withdraw its security forces from Kosovo. Would it not be better if ourselves and other countries in NATO stopped treating Serbia as an international pariah and instead tried to help it to solve the real difficulties in Kosovo? They will not be solved so long as the Kosovo Liberation Army is encouraged to think that NATO will help it to take over Kosovo.

My Lords, we are not trying to achieve an independent state; we are seeking more autonomy and to bring about a stable democratic region. That is why we are working through diplomatic measures and hope that they are successful. However, we have reserve powers if those fail.

My Lords, does not the key to this matter lie in persuading President Yeltsin to use his influence on President Milosevic to make absolutely clear that if the Serbians stop killing Albanians in Kosovo, the Russians would, if necessary, support a new UN mandate? That is the key. Can the Minister tell us what progress is being made on that front?

My Lords, the position is that at the last Contact Group meeting we laid down several demands. Russia was part of the group laying down those terms. The US and the Russians have been working together for six months in the Contact Group. The Contact Group provides a focus for international activity. The next step is the meeting on 8th July when the situation will be reviewed and consideration will be given as to what further steps should be taken.