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1992 - Mr Major’s Comments on the Balkans

Below is the text of Mr Major's comments on the Balkans, made in an interview on Thursday 31st December 1992.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked what could the European Community and the United Nations do about the Balkans].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it is worth first of all putting into context what has already been happening and the cause of the conflict there. What we have seen breaking out in the former Yugoslavia are age-old feuds and hatreds; they have been bitter hatreds that have existed in many cases for centuries, from time to time they break out. That has happened in Yugoslavia over the last twelve months or so.

We have been trying to seek a political settlement, a diplomatic settlement and I think it is fair to say that Britain has been in the lead for that search firstly with Lord Carrington, now Lord Owen and with Cy Vance. It was the British that sent Dame Ann Warburton there to look at many of the vicious attacks there had been on Muslim women and of course it was Britain as President of the European Community that called the London Conference, so we have been in the forefront firstly of seeking a diplomatic settlement but also of course we were the first to provide in significant numbers troops to help with humanitarian aid in Bosnia and it is absolutely vital that that humanitarian aid continues so I think it is worth putting that in context first.

What has been happening over recent weeks I think also needs looking at very carefully. We have three principal concerns: the first is to seek a political solution if one is available; the second is to ensure that the humanitarian aid continues to be delivered; and the third is to bring to an end within Bosnia hostilities and to prevent hostilities spreading beyond Bosnia down to Kosovo or down to the south. That is absolutely vital and I think one of the main concerns we have is ensuring not just that we stop the present conflict but that we prevent a wider conflict erupting.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked that the British role so far hadn’t stopped Serb aggression, and was British action sufficient].

PRIME MINISTER:

Let us consider the options firstly. As far as sanctions are concerned, they have had some impact, not a dramatic impact. I think those sanctions can be stepped up and perhaps stepped up quite dramatically - that may well be necessary. I think also we may have to look at complete and total diplomatic isolation of Serbia. I think that also is a possibility that we will need to look at and we certainly need to tighten as well as extend the existing sanctions regime. Contemplation of all that is going on at the moment and it may be necessary.

I think Serbia should understand very plainly the increasing impatience and despair that is felt in the West at the way in which they have been behaving. Everyone to a certain extent is to blame for the present conflict that we see, but the primary blame, beyond a doubt in our mind, lies with the Serbs. They are the principal cause of the present conflict and people are getting very impatient with that, not just us - the European Community collectively, the United States and others as well. I don’t believe they should push that impatience too far.