Address by Minister Cowen to the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, New York, : Part 2
Iraq: Achieving Disarmament and Averting War
No issue in the Security Council over the two years since Ireland became a member has been more difficult than Iraq. So let me say clearly where Ireland stands. We believe President Bush was entirely right to come to the United Nations in September and to say to the Council: “assume your responsibilities.” We consider Resolution 1441, adopted unanimously, to be rigorous but fair in its demands of Iraq. Saddam Hussein will be making a terrible mistake if he does not fulfil in every respect the disarmament requirements now unambiguously set out, and if he does not fully cooperate with the UN Inspectors.
The government of Iraq must comply with Resolution 1441. It offers a genuine prospect of securing peaceful disarmament and of avoiding war. If Iraq does not comply, then Mr. Blix will so report to the Security Council. At that point, as Kofi Annan has made clear, the Security Council will have to “face its responsibilities”. We have no doubt that it will. The use of force must remain a matter of last resort. But it is specifically provided for in the Charter where sanctions and other means of peaceful persuasion have failed. The United Nations is dedicated to the preservation of international peace and security, but it is not simply a pacifist organisation.
For Ireland, it was a matter of fundamental importance that the Security Council's role be maintained in the engagement of the international community with Iraq. It was not simply a desire to make one last effort to seek Iraq's disarmament through peaceful means, but also a question of maintaining international legitimacy, and acting in accordance with international law.
For the same reason, we consider that it is the Security Council that must decide, should it prove necessary to do so, that Iraq is in material breach - in the international legal definition of that term - of its obligations under Resolution 1441 and other Council decisions.
I know that the patience of many in the United States was strained by the weeks of diplomatic bartering in the Council. All I can say is: the strain was shared by all of us, including the people of Ireland who followed day to day developments closely. The Council has spoken unanimously. Its demands are unequivocal and clear. The Inspectors are back. Iraq must comply. If it does not comply there will be serious consequences. The judgement of President Bush to come to the United Nations has been fully vindicated. And so has the central role of the Security Council as the cornerstone of international peace and security.
The Middle East: An Impasse that Must be Ended
On the Middle East, let me say frankly that this is a festering wound that represents, in Ireland's view, a most profound and real threat to world peace. As President Bush has recognised, there is only one way forward: two States - Israel and Palestine - living in peace, side by side within secure and recognised borders.
Ireland has taken a clear and emphatic position on Middle East issues in the Security Council. We have done so not only because we want to see peace, security and freedom for the people of the region, but also because we consider that the impasse between Israel and Palestine is, literally, poisoning relations in the region and beyond. It must be resolved. Regrettably, however, the resolutions of the Security Council in relation to the Middle East have been ignored systematically.
I agree with the conclusion drawn by Senator George Mitchell when he spoke in Dublin last Friday: sadly, the parties left to themselves appear incapable of reaching a peaceful resolution to the conflict. They need the active help of the international community to go beyond their differences and to achieve a just peace which after all is the only sane way forward. We have, therefore, strongly supported the Quartet role - involving the UN, the US, the EU and Russia - in their work of developing a “road map” that will lead to the achievement of a two State solution.
The Quartet have clear-sighted ideas for achieving progress but it is by no means evident that the parties on the ground are listening. They are trapped in a cycle of violence. Yet violence has failed. It has brought, and will bring, neither independence for Palestinians nor security for Israelis. All sides must stop. Palestinians must end their attacks on Israelis, both in Israel and the occupied territories, including the obscenity of suicide bombings. Israel, for its part, must exercise restraint in pursuing its legitimate security concerns and must cease its economic pressure on the Palestinian people. Israeli settlement activity must be halted and reversed if there is to be any hope of lasting peace in the region. Not only are the settlements illegal and a cause of massive Palestinian resentment, they are themselves a major focus of violent incidents.
The time is fast approaching when the international community will have to take a fresh and honest look at its policy in the region. We must not mistake process for substance. We cannot for much longer continue to claim that we are working towards a solution based on two States with viable and secure borders while actions and words on the ground are dedicated to achieving something very different. Kofi Annan recently spelled out this contradiction.
Peace in the Middle East is of essential importance to the entire international community. Nothing would do more to drain the swamp of Al-Qaeda terrorism than the achievement of lasting peace in the region. It is an issue on which we must make a quantum move forward, showing absolute commitment and engagement and taking full account of the rights and interests of all involved.
Afghanistan: Building Peace
The United Nations has been at the forefront of helping to rebuild Afghanistan over the past year. The responsibilities of the international community did not end with the fall of the Taliban. We must not repeat the mistakes that were made in ignoring Afghanistan after the Soviets left. It would be the height of folly if after the US led eviction of Al Qaeda and their Taliban protectors, the international community were to walk away. Afghanistan needs the full support of the international community, especially economically. There are some worrying signs that this support is beginning to wane. As elsewhere, the United Nations needs our ongoing commitment and support for building the peace in that long-suffering country.
Africa: Challenges and Hopes
Ireland has strongly supported the Security Council's increasing engagement on African issues: be it building peace in the Great Lakes Region; bringing closure to Civil War in Angola; confronting the crisis in Somalia; resolving the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea, or ensuring a just settlement in Western Sahara. We hope in doing so that we have partly repaid the support received from many African nations in our election to the Council.
But, over and above this, Ireland has always had a particular concern for African issues. Our own experience of colonisation is one reason. The work of generations of missionaries and aid workers is another. Only this month, Fr. Declan Collins, an Irish priest, was murdered in South Africa. He is the latest of many who have lost their lives in Africa while following their vocation.
We are proud of our development cooperation programmes since, without development, peace will be built on illusory foundations. At 0.41% of our national income, Ireland ranks sixth in the world in the level of its contribution to Overseas Development Assistance. The UN record in the development area is also a particularly strong one. However, the UN clearly cannot act alone. Here, as elsewhere, we must all work together or we will fail collectively. Such failure would have repercussions far beyond Africa. In real terms, tomorrow's crisis is today's challenge. And a failure of humanity in this area would not only diminish us morally but could well, at some future date, threaten international peace and security.
Terrorism: An Enemy of Many Faces
The fight against terrorism has been a main focus of the Security Council since 11 September. I believe we have done well. In response to Security Council Resolution 1373, a framework of legislative and executive actions against terrorism is being constructed around the world. This work is being ably monitored by the Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee.
Let me make two general points that Ireland considers important. First, the fight against terrorism must be conducted in full conformity with international law - including the body of humanitarian law - and internationally recognised human rights. To do otherwise would be to give the terrorists a greater opportunity to exploit reservoirs of alienation and bitterness. It would also serve to diminish those very freedoms and rights that we are fighting to preserve.
Second, while rooting out terrorists and terrorism, we also need to tackle the underlying causes that - whether we like it or not - can allow terrorism to flourish. Poverty, deprivation or the denial of basic human rights do not of themselves give rise to, still less justify, terrorism. But they can raise the level of tolerance for terrorism among at least some, and I stress some, who feel a sense of grievance against those targeted by the terrorists. Some people may be uncomfortable with this assertion, but, regrettably, historical experience shows it to be the case.
Tackling the causes of conflict; working to prevent conflict; building peace and consolidating peace: this is the work of the United Nations. Cyprus is but the latest encouraging example of the UN's capacity in this regard.
And of course, it is also work that we in Ireland seek to advance on our own island. It is right in this gathering of friends, therefore, that I say a few words about our own peace process.
The Good Friday Agreement of April 1998 represented a new beginning for the people of Ireland, North and South. It has, I firmly believe, brought a definitive end to a conflict that lasted almost thirty years. And we have made significant further progress since then. But we still have a good distance to travel.
We set out to make trust, mutual respect, partnership and reconciliation the templates for political life in Northern Ireland.
Enormous progress has also been made in defining agreed goals on core issues: on equality and human rights; on the principle of consent; on the need for putting paramilitary arms beyond use; on the requirement of partnership government; and on effective North-South cooperation on the island of Ireland.
We are now in the process of completing the task - already well advanced - of building a system of law and order in Northern Ireland that rests entirely on equality and parity of esteem between the two traditions - and a police service that everyone of both traditions, including Republicans and Loyalists, can view as their own.
There were always going to be temporary setbacks in the process. And, clearly, the suspension of devolved institutions is a setback. It has happened because of the erosion of trust. And we now need a rebuilding of that trust. This will be achieved not by incremental moves forward but by the irreversible and complete implementation of all outstanding elements of the Good Friday Agreement, together and in the round.
We made a good start in that work at the Round-Table talks in Belfast last week, chaired by the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and by myself. I was greatly impressed by the honesty of purpose and mutual respect shown by the parties at that meeting. We intend pro-actively to build on this in the weeks ahead. As ever, I know we can rely on the support and encouragement of our friends here in the United States - made manifest by Ambassador Richard Haass's sixth visit to Ireland last week, and Secretary Powell's restatement to me this morning of the Bush Administration's full commitment to the peace process.
Let me conclude by a general observation.
Building peace has many dimensions; averting war works best by tackling the causes of potential conflict in good time. That rarely wins headlines but it is why the United Nations is indispensable to us all. In this regard, we are especially fortunate to have in Kofi Annan a Secretary-General of outstanding skill and qualities of leadership.
The United Nations is not perfect. The Security Council has its weaknesses. It is not sufficiently representative. Its agenda is overloaded. Its actions are not as well coordinated as they should be with the wider work of the UN in the economic and social fields. Its demands are far too frequently ignored, or only partially implemented.
So, of course, the United Nations needs further reform. But, across the spectrum of issues I have described, it is doing hugely important work in both building and maintaining peace. In continuing to do so in the future it will require leadership, and the solidarity and support of all members of the Organisation.
Ireland leaves the Security Council convinced now, more than ever, that a strong, credible and effective Council is good for Ireland, good for America and good for the World.