Joint Committee on European Affairs, 18 November 2004, General Affairs and External Relations Council, Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dermot Ahern, TD - Part III
Ministers will also consider recent positive developments in relation to Iran’s nuclear programme. At the European Council earlier this month, Foreign Ministers discussed the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme, especially in light of the forthcoming meeting in late November of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Since then, there appears to have been a degree of progress. I welcome Iran’s announcement on 14 November that it is prepared to suspend all uranium enrichment related and reprocessing activities and I look forward to the Agency’s verification of that decision. The EU will continue to pursue the dialogue with Iran with respect to this issue, in particular through the efforts of France, Germany, the UK and Javier Solana. The EU position remains that Iran should cooperate proactively with the IAEA in a spirit of full transparency with a view to resolving all outstanding concerns in relation to its nuclear programme.
The discussion on Ukraine will focus on EU-Ukraine relations, in light of the second and final round of Presidential elections scheduled for this Sunday, 21 November. Ukraine is a key neighbour and partner for the Union and these elections will be an important benchmark of Ukraine’s commitment to democratic values. The level and scope of EU-Ukraine cooperation will continue to be largely defined by progress with political and economic reform within Ukraine itself. The people of Ukraine will have an opportunity to express their views democratically at the elections on Sunday. In line with our EU partners, I would like to reiterate the hope that conditions will be in place to ensure that these elections are fully free and fair.
Ministers will also review preparations for the EU-China Summit due to be held in The Hague on 8 December. These meetings take place on an annual basis and the last summit was held in Beijing in October 2003. The EU regularly engages with China on a number of levels and, over the past year, there has been a Foreign Ministers troika, an EU-China seminar at official level, two sessions of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue and two seminars aimed at helping China move towards ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which were attended by EU experts, including Irish experts. An agenda and draft EU-China Joint Declaration for the Summit are still awaited. On the economic side, a concrete outcome of the Summit may include customs cooperation. Reference may also be made to EU-China dialogues on macroeconomic and employment issues. An EU-China Business Summit is also being planned for 7 December. The EU and China are also expected to adopt a joint declaration on non-proliferation and arms control.
The Council will discuss a number of issues relating to Africa. The first of these is the Ivory Coast, where there has been a serious breakdown of security following the launch of a government offensive against rebel-held areas on 4 November. The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on Monday condemning the actions of the Government of the Ivory Coast, and calling on both sides to respect the ceasefire which was agreed in May last year. The Resolution also put in place an immediate arms embargo and provides for further targeted sanctions should either side not comply with their obligations under the peace agreements. Ministers will review this worrying situation, including the serious violence directed against French and other non-Ivorian nationals and the attacks on the UN operation and on French peace-keeping troops in the country. It is clear progress can only be achieved through the resumption of political dialogue and the honouring in full by both sides of commitments under the relevant peace accords.
The Council will also consider developments in Sudan where, despite considerable international attention, insecurity continues to be a key constraint in Darfur and the overall humanitarian situation remains critical. The main focus for Monday’s discussion will be Special Representative Pronk’s report to the UN Security Council, the peace talks in Abuja and the upcoming meeting of the Security Council in Nairobi. I welcome the recent progress in the Abuja peace talks between the Government and the Darfur rebel groups and the signing of the humanitarian and security protocols by all sides in the conflict. I believe that we must continue to press for speedy and substantial progress in the peace talks in Abuja and Naivasha. Finalising and implementing a peace agreement for Southern Sudan will greatly assist in resolution of the Darfur conflict. The Council will also consider the situation in the Great Lakes, following the initial Summit of the International Conference on Peace, Security, Democracy and Development in the Great Lakes which will take place in Dar-es-Salaam at the end of this week (19-20 November). It is extremely encouraging that the Great Lakes Conference, first proposed over a decade ago, is now to take place and will adopt a Declaration of Principles which will hopefully provide the basis for a more detailed and action-oriented peace and security pact for the region, to be adopted at a second summit of the Conference next year. Ireland strongly supports the objectives of the Conference and has contributed €200,000 to support the holding of the Conference. The Council will no doubt wish to reflect on how the EU can assist further the Conference process and ensure the achievements of Dar-es-Salaam are translated into a substantive peace and security pact that can be adopted next year. The Presidency will also report on the Troika mission to the Great Lakes which is being held in conjunction with the Conference and provide an update on what additional EU support might be available to help reinforce the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Council is expected to adopt Conclusions welcoming recent positive developments in the Somalia peace process, which include the election of a Transitional Federal Parliament and a President and the appointment of a Prime Minister. The Council will stress the need for early establishment of a broad based Government in Somalia, which will tackle the major political challenges of demobilization, disarmament and reintegration; internal reconciliation, peaceful dialogue with the Somaliland region and maintaining regional cohesion. It will also emphasise that the establishment of a secure environment in Somalia will require an effective and internationally verifiable ceasefire agreement. The Council will indicate that the EU will continue to support the peace and reconciliation process and the transition to a Federal State in Somalia and that the EU is also ready to examine ways, including through the African Peace Facility, in which it can support the deployment of an African Union observer mission to support the reconciliation process in Somalia. The Council is also expected to underline the importance of the UN taking-up a lead role in the international support of a new Somali government. Portugal has requested that Guinea Bissau be placed on the agenda under AOB in order to update Member States on the situation in its former colony in West Africa, following a recent mutiny by the military, and to seek international support for the maintenance of peace and stability in the country which is necessary for overall regional stability.