Statement to Dail Eireann by Mr Brian Cowen T.D., Minister for Foreign Affairs, concerning Iraq: Part 2
Ireland strongly supports the system of collective international security enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The UN is the centre of this system of collective security. It is the world body invested with unique legitimacy and unique authority. The UN is the central forum for discussion and action on issues of global importance. This is an essential function. It can be realised only when the members, and especially those in the Security Council, live up to their responsibilities.
Ireland's position at the Security Council is based on these principles. Further, we believe that the authority of the Security Council must be upheld and its procedures under the Charter must be respected so as to ensure the integrity of the Council in the exercise of its duty. It is for the Council to determine whether there exists a threat to the peace, and then to decide what is to be done to remove the threat, and to resolve what measures are to be taken if its decisions are not respected or implemented in full.
Iraq's refusal over so many years to comply with the decisions of the Council poses a continuing threat to peace and security, undermines the authority of the UN and the rule of law, and weakens confidence that a peaceful international order and effective arms control can be maintained. This carries serious implications for the security of every country, including our own. More immediately, this defiance has had tragic consequences for the Iraqi people themselves and it has borne heavily upon their neighbours. None of this suffering was necessary and the Iraqi Government could have prevented it. Instead, we are now heading into an ever more threatening situation.
This is most certainly not a time for hasty or ill-considered decisions. Events must not be allowed to escape our direction. We see it as imperative that the Security Council should remain in control of developments. For this reason, we welcomed the fact that President Bush brought the issue to the United Nations and that we are now working within the framework of the Security Council.
We have also welcomed the efforts of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to convince Iraq to accept weapons inspections. As the Secretary-General told the General Assembly, this would be the indispensable first step towards assuring the world that all Iraq's weapons of mass destruction have been eliminated. And they must be eliminated, and seen to be eliminated, beyond doubt or question.
We also welcomed Iraq's agreement to the return of inspectors, without conditions. This is a highly important development. But it has to be put to the test. Unfortunately, past experience with Iraq shows that nothing can be taken for granted. Instead, words must be backed with deeds. The time for Iraq to act is now. Iraq must cooperate fully with the inspectors, end its evasions, allow full, free and unfettered access to all sites, as well as to personnel and documentation. There can be no exception for Presidential sites. Nothing less than immediate and complete access can carry the necessary credibility. Nothing less can reverse the present dangerous trend towards an unknown, but fearful destination.
There can be no excuses, no more prevarication. We are fully confident that the arms inspectors will carry out their tasks with the greatest professionalism and complete objectivity and impartiality, in accordance with their mandate.
Ireland shares in the growing international consensus that the Iraqi regime poses a potential threat to regional security. Iraq has so far consistently failed to meet its obligations under international law and the relevant Security Council Resolutions.
Nevertheless, we continue to believe that diplomatic means offer the best hope of resolving the crisis. In this respect, we welcome President Bush's assurance on Monday that he is willing to make another effort to find a solution through diplomacy. We will strongly encourage this. In our view, every possible effort should be made to avoid the use of military force. We would be seriously concerned that the use of force could destabilise an already volatile region, particularly in view of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. We consider, therefore, that multilateral cooperation in the application of sanctions remains the best approach in tackling the problem of Iraq.
It is clear, however, that a time is approaching when continuing Iraqi defiance, if Baghdad should unwisely persist with its present course, will compel the Security Council to examine all the options available to it. We hope that this can be avoided. We call on the Iraqi Government to step up the cooperation with the arms inspectors which it has started to show in recent talks with UNMOVIC and the IAEA. These talks resulted in substantial agreement on practical arrangements for the future work of the inspection teams. Some details remain to be finalised on the modalities of access. In addition, the question of access to Presidential sites has yet to be addressed. We look forward to the earliest possible agreement on the return of the inspectors and the speedy commencement of work on the ground.
The entire question will be placed formally before the Security Council shortly. Discussions are underway among the Permanent Five members of the Council on the text of a Resolution to be considered by the full fifteen members of the Council. The arms inspectors already have the necessary mandate under existing Security Council Resolutions to go about their work and so, strictly speaking, there is no need for a further Resolution. However, we agree that there is a strong political case for reaffirming and strengthening that mandate. We have made our views known to the Permanent Five in consultations at the Security Council. We are ready to study any proposal which would bring further clarity to the conditions under which the inspectors would operate and would strengthen their ability to carry out their tasks.
All members of the Security Council are in agreement that the inspectors must return forthwith and that they must complete their task of ensuring that Iraq possesses neither weapons of mass destruction nor the means of developing them. All members agree that the inspectors must have full, free and unfettered access, although there is still not full agreement about some of the modalities. Further, all members agree that if Iraq refuses to meet these conditions, the Security Council must assume its responsibilities.
Ireland wants very much to see a peaceful solution to this crisis. We are working together with the other members of the Security Council to accomplish this objective. This goal is the overwhelming wish of the international community. The purpose of the UN Resolutions is to bring about disarmament. Nothing more. Ireland is working within the framework of these Resolutions. We do not see that there is a UN mandate for any further end, such as regime change. We believe that UN action against Iraq should be halted as soon as Iraq comes into compliance with the Resolutions of the Security Council and implements the Council's decisions in full.
This common goal can be achieved. It is well within the ability of the Security Council to devise a Resolution which will create the necessary conditions to do so. The Council acts on behalf of the entire UN membership in carrying out its primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security. The Council is therefore entitled to expect the full support of the international community. But it must also ensure that it keeps their support. The members of the United Nations gave the Security Council full authority under the Charter to act on their behalf. That authority is necessarily enhanced when the Security Council is seen to be acting in accordance with the wishes of the broader UN membership and with their full support. The strength of resolve felt by the international community is most clearly demonstrated when it acts with unity.
The kind of Resolution which we believe is most likely to command the widest possible consensus within the Council and beyond is one which deals with the issues firmly, clearly and fairly. It should set out unequivocally what is required of Iraq, it should show how the crisis can be resolved, and it should make clear the serious consequences of continued non-cooperation.
First, the Resolution must be firm. It should leave no doubt that Iraq must come into compliance, and without delay or further attempts to avoid the obligations imposed on it by the Security Council. The Resolution should also leave no doubt that the Council will take any necessary decision to enforce compliance, if Iraq does not cooperate as it is bound to do.
Second, the Resolution must be clear. Any decision on action must be taken by the Security Council in full accordance with the Charter. The primary responsibility to make decisions in accordance with the Charter regarding the maintenance of international peace and security belongs to the Council and it should remain with the Council. It is for the Council to assess whether Iraq is cooperating and, if not, what further steps should be taken.
Third, the Resolution must be fair. The demands which it makes of Iraq must be demands which Iraq can fulfill, assuming that it wants to. Iraq must know that there is a way out of the crisis. If Iraq acts in good faith and meets its obligations, the Security Council will respond. An effective and thorough inspection process, with the full cooperation of the Iraqi authorities, will lead on to an early suspension of sanctions, in full accordance with the provisions of Security Council Resolution 1284.
The Government of Iraq can, if it wishes, eliminate the deepening tensions and put an end to the suffering of its people. All that is required is that it lives up to its commitment and obligation under the Charter to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council. Such compliance would avoid any further escalation and restore calm. It would also lead to the suspension and eventual removal of the present economic sanctions and ultimately end the hardship faced by the Iraqi people.
It may be that Iraq will once again defy the entire international community and all people and Governments who are committed to peace. Iraq may again take the decision not to meet its obligations under Security Council Resolutions. In that unfortunate event, it will be for the Security Council to assume its responsibilities and decide on any further action, including the possible use of force, as provided for under the UN Charter. Our hope must be that the Iraqi Government will act to ensure that the Security Council is never forced to take such a decision.
It is in the power of the international community, and of Iraq, to bring this crisis to a peaceful end, to the enormous benefit of everyone, and in particular of the people of the region , and most of all of the Iraqi people themselves, who deserve no less of their Government. Ireland will do its utmost to help bring about this peaceful solution