Friday, 15 November, 2002, 17:11 GMT

British Empire Blamed For Modern Conflicts By UK Foreign Secretary

Jack Straw said serious mistakes had been made.

The UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Strawhas blamed Britain's imperial past for many of the modern political problems, including the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Kashmir dispute. "A lot of the problems we are having to deal with now - I have to deal with now - are a consequence of our colonial past," he said. The Balfour declaration... again, an interesting history for us, but not an honourable one. In an interview with a British magazine, the New Statesman, Mr Straw spoke of quite serious mistakes made, especially during the last decades of the empire.

He said the Balfour Declaration of 1917 - in which Britain pledged support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine - and the contradictory assurances given to Palestinians, were not entirely honourable. "The Balfour declaration and the contradictory assurances which were being given to Palestinians in private at the same time as they were being given to the Israelis - again, an interesting history for us, but not an honourable one," he said.

The odd lines for Iraq's borders were drawn by British.Mr Straw acknowledged "some quite serious mistakes" in India and Pakistan, jewels of the British empire before their 1947 independence, as well as Britain's "less than glorious role" in Afghanistan. Mr Straw blamed many territorial disputes on the illogical borders created by colonial powers. He mentioned Iraq, the region which was governed by Britain under the mandate of the League of Nations after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. "The odd lines for Iraq's borders were drawn by Brits," he said.

He said the British Government had been complacent about Kashmir at the time of Indian independence, when it quickly became the most contentious issue between India and Pakistan. This is not the first time Mr Straw has made controversial remarks about British history. In the past he has blamed the English of oppressing the Scots, the Irish and the Welsh. Mr Straw said British colonial past was less than honourable.

Members of the main opposition Conservative Party accused Mr Straw of undermining British foreign policy, particularly in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe has justified his campaign against white farmers as a way of righting the wrongs of colonialism. But Downing Street said Mr Straw's remarks were "a sensible statement of history".

Key Conflict Areas Acknowledged:






Braudel and Colonialism

Colonialism and Eurocentrism


Britain destroyed records of colonial crimes