Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs (Part 2)
I met Foreign Minister Peres and President Arafat in Brussels on Monday. I took the opportunity to make a number of observations, based on the trial and error of the Irish peace process.
• There can be no purely military solution. A lasting settlement must address the root causes of conflict.
• A lasting agreement must be comprehensive and address all issues of concern to the parties, even if the parties might agree to deal with them in different time frames.
• Those in favour of peace in each community must work together - even in the face of hostility from the enemies of the peace process in their own community - to identify a common platform. They must stick together in adversity, and refrain from exaggerated criticism when mistakes are made, as they inevitably are. They must face down the enemies of peace together.
• The international community must support the peace process in a balanced and objective way. Third countries should not adopt a partisan, subjective approach which can serve to make things worse and breathe distrust.
• A successful process needs a route map, such as that already prepared by Mitchell and Tenet, which is hard on both sides. It needs a mechanism to arbitrate on who is meeting and who is not meeting their commitments.
• Those driving the peace process must rise above the politics of the last atrocity; an attitude, which while understandable in terms of domestic opinion, is ultimately bereft of vision and hands control over progress to the inherent enemies of the peace process.
Ireland has placed particular emphasis on African issues since joining the Council and this commitment was carried through to our Presidency. While the glare of media attention may have been elsewhere, the Irish Presidency of the Council made some significant progress on the many fraught conflicts in Africa. Much of the Council's work on the resolution of African conflicts takes place behind-the-scenes to support efforts at building peace in Africa and the work undertaken during our Presidency was no exception:
• As Presidency Ireland focussed the attention of the Security Council on Somalia and we chaired the first Public Meeting of the Council in 18 months on Somalia on 19 October. Somalia was one of the major priorities of Ireland's Presidency of the Council, although this is a difficult issue at the Council with some reluctance on the part of the international community to re-engage, in the light of past experience. Ireland was instrumental in achieving the agreement of the Council on ways to take forward the UN's engagement in Somalia, including by sending a mission to assess the security situation there. This represents considerable progress and I was pleased to have chaired the meeting of the Council on 31 October at which the Presidential Statement on Somalia was adopted. We do not wish to see Somalia becoming a forgotten conflict and I believe that our work during our SECCO Presidency has contributed in no small measure to ensuring that this will not be the case.
• In relation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Council reiterated its support for the Inter-Congolese dialogue which is a key element in the peace process in the DRC. At a Public Meeting on 24 October the Council supported the commencement of phase III of the deployment of the UN mission in the DRC and its deployment towards the east of the country, in line with the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General. The Security Council will meet with the Political Committee of the Lusaka Agreement on 9 November to push for a renewed commitment by all the parties to the peace process.
• In relation to Burundi the Council was very active in support of the peace process there in the run-up to the installation of a Transitional Hutu-Tutsi Government on 1 November. In particular the Council agreed a Resolution on 29 October expressing its strong support for an interim Protection Force for exiled political leaders returning to join the Transitional Government.
• As Presidency, Ireland was also active on other African issues such as Angola, Liberia, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau. We will take forward our commitment to African issues for the remainder of our membership of the Council and will do what we can to make a contribution to the peaceful resolution of the many terrible conflicts there.
In relation to Iraq, Ireland chaired discussions of the Security Council on 11 October on the Secretary-General's 90 day report on the operation of the UN humanitarian programme in Iraq. This report makes it abundantly clear that, through the programme, the Government of Iraq is in a position to address fully the nutritional and health requirements of its people, particularly children. That Iraq has deliberately failed to cooperate with the UN to fulfill those needs is unacceptable. Ireland made our views clear at the 11 October meeting of the Council and we hope to see rapid progress at the Council on agreeing a revised basis for sanctions. The issue is due to be considered again by the Council at the end of this month.
In early October I met with both Hans Blix and Benon Sevan, the heads of the UN Monitoring and Verification Mission for Iraq (UNMOVIC) and the Office of the Iraq Programme respectively. Both officials outlined their frustration at the lack of cooperation on the part of Iraq. I understand that the delegation from this Committee also met with the same officials in New York last week and I understand that they were conveyed the same message.
I raised the issue of Iraq with the Secretary General during my most recent visit to New York, including the question of his continuing to explore with the Iraqi Government the prospects for both the improved implementation and reform of the sanctions regime, and the eventual suspension of the regime in the context of Iraq's compliance with the Council's demands that it allow United Nations arms inspectors to verify that it is not engaged in the production of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. However, to date, Iraq has not shown that it is willing to engage seriously with the UN. As the Committee is aware, the Security Council has under consideration a revised system for the importation of goods into Iraq. Unfortunately, it has not been possible so far to reach the necessary level of agreement on reform of the regime. We have been active with fellow members of the Council at a number of levels in urging flexibility.
East Timor is an issue which is very close to the hearts of the Irish people and I made it a priority to personally chair the Public Meeting of the Security Council on East Timor on 31 October, which was attended by the delegation from the Joint Committee. The debate focussed on the UN involvement in post-independence East Timor, based on the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General. At the meeting the Council agreed a Presidential Statement endorsing plans for a continued UN mission in East Timor after independence and agreeing that premature withdrawal of the UN from East Timor could have a destabilising effect. This was a very positive outcome from Ireland's point of view as it reaffirmed our conviction that the international community should remain committed to the people of East Timor. I am gratified at the public recognition by Tom Hyland and the East Timor campaign that Ireland, in its capacity as SECCO Presidency, has indeed lived up to its commitment to walk a little further with the people of East Timor.
There were many other developments during Ireland's Presidency of the Council in October - we chaired the last meeting of the Security Council on Kosovo before the elections take place there on 17 November; we took forward work on developing so-called ‘targeted' or ‘smart' UN sanctions; and I was personally able to deliver a Presidential Statement of the Council on Women, Peace and Security which marked the one year anniversary of the adoption of a Security Council Resolution promoting an increased role for women in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peace-making.
One positive development at the Security Council which is of particular resonance for Ireland is the progress that has been made in increasing cooperation between the Security Council and the countries contributing troops to UN peacekeeping operations. This means that before the Security Council makes decisions about UN missions, it consults with the countries who have peacekeeping troops on the ground and takes their views on board. As a permanent troop-contributor this mechanism for consultation will be invaluable for Ireland and we believe that countries contributing troops have a vital input to make to SECCO decision-making. During October, Ireland chaired three such meetings with countries contributing troops to UN missions on the Iraq-Kuwait border, in the DRC and East Timor.
I believe that Ireland has made a very solid and constructive contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security as Security Council Presidency for October 2001. This view was reaffirmed to me by the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, when we met in New York last week.
Holding the Presidency of the Security Council is a momentous and challenging occasion for any country, and particularly so for a non-permanent member of the Council like Ireland. We last held the Presidency of the Council almost twenty years ago and it will be many years before we are in the seat again. Good management and preparation, strategic thinking and negotiating skills are essential in order to be able to bring together the 15 members of the Council in making a constructive contribution to an international event or crisis. I think that we demonstrated these skills well during October and that the hard work put in at all levels has paid off. When we look at the balance sheet at the end of the day I think we can say fairly that it was a job well done.
There are, of course, many regions of the world in which the United Nations and the Security Council needs to do much more to help save innocent lives and bring conflicts to an end. We will continue to work for the rest of our term on the Security Council to enhance the role that the UN can play in these areas.
I look forward to hearing the Committee's views.