Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1993 Apr 13 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for BBC (attacks British policy towards Bosnia)

Document type: speeches
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: BBC Television Centre, Shepherd's Bush, London
Source: Thatcher Archive
Journalist: Peter Sissons, BBC
Editorial comments: MT appeared live on the Six O'Clock News. MT also appeared on ITN.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 813 words
Themes: Conservatism, Defence (general), European Union (general), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU)

Peter Sissons, BBC [question paraphrased]:
Could there be case for Western ultimatum to Serbs with threat of force?

MT:
Yes, I believe there could. The present policy of humanitarian aid plus negotiation plus trying to get a ceasefire clearly hasn’t worked. We’ve seen that from the ethnic cleansing, we’ve seen it from the massacres and the latest atrocity you’ve just reported. We can’t go on with this policy: namely feeding people but leaving … the innocent to be massacred.

Peter Sissons, BBC [question paraphrased]:
Would you stop humanitarian aid?

MT:
That seems to me to leave two possible policies. The first: to see that the Bosnian Muslims are armed – after all everyone has a right to self-defence. It is being frustrated by a resolution of the U.N. You must have Bosnian Muslims armed. It works because, after all, other countries armed the freedom fighters in Afghanistan and that worked and they saw the Russians off. That would be to arm them and also to give full air cover if need be, with ground attack. Both of those require U.N. [support]. Now that’s one policy that is necessary if we are to stop the persistent slaughter of town after town by the Bosnian Serbs.

Peter Sissons, BBC [question paraphrased]:
Would arming Bosnian Muslims stop the killing? Douglas Hurd said doing this would give everyone “a level killing field”.

MT:
I thought it was a terrible and disgraceful phrase. There’s a killing field now where the innocent haven’t the requisite arms properly to defend themselves, but they are doing as much as they can with their bravery and a few rifles handed round between them. I’m very grateful that in the Battle of Britain we had some proper equipment - not enough - but that, with a prime minister with a lion heart Winston Churchilland with very very marvellous pilots, managed to get us through. So yes, arming the Bosnian Muslims would help and give them heart, too. The other alternative is an ultimatum on the Serbs about the Owen-Vance plan. That’s not necessarily a plan with which one agrees, but it is the only one on the table. The Bosnian Muslims have accepted it, the Bosnian Croats have accepted it, the Bosnian Serbs have not. Why? Because they think they can get everything they want by fighting. Give them an ultimatum, otherwise we have to move in with the policy I have indicated. If they accept that, it tells you that you must disarm the militia, it gives you a timetable and it tells you that you must in fact let those who have been ethnically cleansed return to their villages and the Serbs have to go to the area allocated to them. So there are two possible frameworks, but you cannot leave the innocent to be massacred.

Peter Sissons, BBC [question paraphrased]:
How stop armed Muslims massacring Serbs?

MT:
You have a right of self-defence. It is the aggressive dictator who is getting away with everything. He is seeing the will of the U.N. – what was called a New World Order – flouted. He is seeing the … West just standing idly by. You cannot have that as a policy, The West really must defend the innocent.

Peter Sissons, BBC [question paraphrased]:
But that is Britain’s policy. Do we share blame?

MT:
I am ashamed of the E.C., and this is happening in the heart of Europe, and they have not done any more to stop it. It is within Europe’s sphere of influence. It should be within Europe’s sphere of conscience – there is no conscience. We have been a little like an accomplice to massacre. We cannot carry on like that. Just imagine if our families were there. Seventeen children were killed yesterday.

Peter Sissons, BBC [question paraphrased]:
You are calling Major “accomplice to massacre”?

MT:
I am saying that the West, by not doing more, has been a little like an accomplice to massacre. If you are letting it go on and doing nothing, the aggressor is going to win. It’s going to give help and support to every other aggressor. Our job is to defend the innocent.

Peter Sissons, BBC [question paraphrased]:
New World Order defunct?

MT:
Quite clearly the authority of the U.N. has just not been upheld and it is dreadful to see the U.N. commanders humiliated. General Morillon gave us just a sparkle of hope and some leadership. What you’ve got now is the Old World Disorder and it will not do. Article 51 says everyone has a right to self-defence. Bosnia has a right of self-defence and we must see that it is upheld. I have never suggested we put in ground forces, except to implement the Owen-Vance plan because we have all of the latest air equipment and we should use it effectively and leave it to those who know where the artillery installations are. Arm them and leave them to deal with it.