Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs (Part 1)
FOLLOW UP TO IRELAND'S PRESIDENCY OF THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL
STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, BRIAN COWEN, TD,
TO THE OIREACHTAS JOINT COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
7 NOVEMBER 2001
I would like to thank the Chairman for inviting me to address the Committee today. I am pleased to have the opportunity to further our dialogue on Ireland's membership of SECCO, in particular on our recent Presidency and to look together at ways in which to take the various issues forward over the remaining year of our term on the Council.
The visit of the delegation from the Joint Committee to New York last week was very welcome, in particular the fact that you were able to meet with some of the key players at the UN, including the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. I am pleased that members of the Committee have had the opportunity to see at first hand what the Security Council Presidency looked like on the ground in New York.
In preparing for the Presidency our objective was to engage effectively on the range of issues on the SECCO agenda on the basis of our traditional commitment to peacekeeping, disarmament, development cooperation and human rights. Throughout the month, in addition to ensuring the efficient conduct of the Council's business, we continued to bring an objective case-by-case analysis of the issues coming before the Council. I believe that this approach won us considerable respect among other Council members and enabled us to have a significant influence on a number of conflict situations. The Presidency also provided us with an opportunity to promote Ireland's broad foreign policy objectives and interests, consistent with the safeguarding of international peace and security.
Notwithstanding, our experience of the past month shows that the Presidency of the Council needs to be flexible in order to enable the Council to react to events as they occur. The unpredictability of the international environment is something for which the Council Presidency must be ready. Ireland last held the Presidency of the Security Council in August 1982 and at that time our Presidency was dominated by a crisis in the Middle East with the Israeli invasion of Beirut.
Our October 2001 Presidency of the Council will be remembered as coming in the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the US. The horrific events of 11 September overshadowed the agenda for our October Presidency and our key priorities became the follow-up to Security Council Resolution 1373 on terrorism and the situation in Afghanistan.
In relation to terrorism, as Presidency we ensured the rapid establishment of the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee on 4 October. The Committee is charged with monitoring the implementation of SECCO Resolution 1373, including legal measures to prevent terrorist acts such as the outlawing the financing of terrorism. The Committee has moved swiftly to issue guidance to States on how to report on the measures they have taken to implement the Resolution and Ireland will be reporting to the Committee on a national basis before the end of December. We will also be a member of the Counter-Terrorism Committee until the end of our term on the Security Council and will do what we can to ensure that it operates in an effective, efficient and transparent manner. The Security Council will meet at Ministerial level next Monday to further consider the way ahead and I look forward to participating in that discussion.
Our SECCO Presidency also saw the commencement of military action by the US and UK in Afghanistan. In the Resolutions adopted after the 11 September attacks the Security Council unanimously reaffirmed the right to self-defence in accordance with the UN Charter. As Presidency, Ireland was instrumental in persuading the US and UK to brief the Council on 8 October on their actions in exercise of their right to self-defence.
Since we joined the Council in January Ireland has been to the forefront of efforts to keep Afghanistan on the international agenda. We have supported the development by the Council of a comprehensive approach to the situation in Afghanistan which will include political, economic, humanitarian and human rights issues. Throughout the Presidency, I availed of every opportunity to emphasise to the Secretary-General, to the United States and to OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) the need for a visible humanitarian strategy. At our initiative, weekly briefings were held during October on Afghanistan and the Council engaged in dialogue with the key players, including the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and his Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi. During our Presidency a broad consensus emerged at the Security Council that the UN should lead the process towards establishing a broad-based, multi-ethnic and fully-representative Government in Afghanistan.
I have undertaken extensive consultation on the situation in Afghanistan with Irish and international NGOs, UN agencies and key players, both here in Dublin and in New York. Together with the delegation from this Committee we heard from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York recently about the possible road ahead for the UN in Afghanistan. As a member of the Security Council Ireland will continue to focus on the situation in Afghanistan and to build on the work done during our Presidency to support the emergence of a broad-based Government in Afghanistan that will respect the rights of all its people. I expect to participate in further Security Council consideration of the situation in Afghanistan next Tuesday, when it is anticipated that Ambassador Brahimi will have further refined his thinking on the way ahead.
Although the events of 11 September have been, and continue to be, to the forefront of people's minds, we have been keen to ensure that other issues on the Council's agenda get the attention they deserve. During October we also devoted efforts to the many pressing conflicts around the world which threaten international peace and security, not least in the Middle East and Africa. Addressing these conflicts is also a key long-term tool in the fight against international terrorism.
The question of the Middle East is a difficult issue for the Security Council and during our Presidency we worked hard to advance the cause of peace there. After intensive negotiation and consultation on the part of Ireland as Presidency, the Security Council unanimously authorized the Irish Presidency on October 25 to issue a statement to the press on their behalf concerning the Middle East. The statement supported calls made for immediate Israeli withdrawal from Area A and strongly supported all the elements in the statement made that day by the envoys of the EU, US, Russia and the UN Secretary-General. The role of the Council in relation to the Middle East peace process is a highly sensitive issue and I believe that we made a modest contribution as Presidency in achieving an agreed position at the Council on this occasion. Moving on from our Presidency, we will try to build on this progress and will do all we can to enable the Council to make a positive contribution to the situation in the Middle East.