Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D. regarding the USA situation part 2
For my part, I expressed the profound sorrow and regret of the Irish people at the events of 11 September.
I offered the support of Ireland for the efforts of the US Government to build an international coalition to deal comprehensively with international terrorism. I formally conveyed to the Secretary of State the Irish Government's offer of overflight and landing facilities.
Secretary Powell told me that the US Government was enormously gratified by the support of bodies such as the Security Council, UNGA, the EU, the organisation of Islamic states and a wide range of countries. Support for the campaign against terrorism would be varied, but the US welcomed support according to each country's ability to offer it. The Secretary of State was very clear in his perspective that the international campaign against terrorism would be multifaceted.
He was equally very clear that any military response should not be seen as a clash between Islam and the West. The vast majority of Muslims worldwide were just as horrified as anyone else at these atrocities.
Secretary Powell cited President Bush's determination to engage in a long term campaign against terrorist networks located in many countries. He regretted the Taliban regime's failure to respond to the demand, of the Security Council to hand over Osama bin Laden. He assured me that if military force is used, it will be careful and calibrated. I emphasised to the Secretary the imperative, as Ireland saw it, that any military response be measured, proportional and avoid as far as possible the risk of inflicting civilian casualties.
It might be useful to recall the comments of UN Secretary General Annan, yesterday, when asked if more consultations were needed before any US military strike. The Secretary General said that the Security Council Resolution had described the attack as a threat to international peace and security and had reaffirmed the right of individual and collective self defence.
Secretary Powell also fully acknowledged the concern of the entire international community with regard to the humanitarian situation. He noted that the US was the largest contributor to the humanitarian relief efforts in Afghanistan.
A Cheann Chomhairle,
During my visit to the UN, I held discussions with the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, other senior UN officials, heads of delegation of other SECCO members, and heads of the UN Oil-for-food and Office of Iraq Programmes.
Following on from Resolution 1368 of 12 September, the Security Council on 28 September unanimously adopted Resolution 1373 after two days of negotiation. The Resolution imposes obligations on Member States under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and particularly emphasises measures that must be taken to combat the financing of terrorism. Member States are obliged to criminalise the possession or collection of funds for terrorist acts and freeze the funds, financial assets or economic resources of those who commit, participate in or facilitate terrorist acts and to report on actions taken to those ends within 90 days.
We will do all in our power to ensure that the Committee to be established to monitor the implementation of the Resolution by all Member States is operational as soon as possible. In this regard, I am hopeful that it will be possible to reach an early agreement on the structure and chairmanship of the committee.
I want to assure the House that Ireland played a full role in the intensive discussions on the drafting of this resolution, in particular in seeking to ensure that the necessary balance was struck between the need to tackle terrorism more effectively, on the one hand, but not at the expense of the observance of fundamental human rights on the other. Our efforts received the commendation of several Council members following the adoption of this resolution.
The UN Security Council has been demanding the closure of terrorist camps in areas controlled by the Taliban for the past three years. The Security Council has also been demanding that Osama bin Laden be handed over for trial. The Council has been rebuffed in both these demands, despite the imposition of stringent sanctions by the international community against the Taliban regime. Those who committed these acts of terror and those who supported them can no longer be allowed to defy the will of the international community.
As I have already said, the Government is extremely concerned about the plight of the Afghan people. There are already millions of Afghans living as refugees in neighbouring countries or as displaced persons in their own country. They are the victims of drought, civil war and, in some cases, of the Taliban regime which controls 90% of the national territory. The present crisis is causing further population movements out of the major cities and towards the frontier.
Ireland has over several years consistently sought to highlight the humanitarian situation of the Afghan people at the UN. In part due to our efforts, the Security Council has decided to keep the situation under constant review. Let there be no doubt as to those primarily responsible for the hardship imposed on the Afghan people. The UN Secretary General has firmly laid this responsibility on the Taliban regime.
A £2.8 million grant aid package for Afghanistan was announced on Monday by Minister of State Liz O'Donnell, TD. This package - the largest ever for a single emergency - will continue to support the work of Irish NGOs and the main international agencies in responding to the crisis in Afghanistan. Along with the £1.2 million already provided since January, this brings the total assistance provided by Ireland Aid for Afghanistan in 2001 to over £4 million. The Government stands ready to consider further assistance in the light of developments.
We do not see any alternative to a long-term and permanent political settlement in Afghanistan. We will ensure that this objective remains to the forefront of international concern and efforts during Ireland's Presidency of the Security Council in October.
A Cheann Chomhairle,
There is concern as to the impact and implications of a US military response. The US shares with all states the inherent right to individual or collective self defence, recognised under Article 51 of the UN Charter. It has suffered a vicious attack, the latest and by the far the most deadly in a long series of attacks on US targets. It believes that it may be the subject of further attacks planned and controlled by persons who are sheltered and sustained by the government or de facto authorities of another state. There can be little doubt that action by way of self-defence is justified under international law, as long as the response is proportionate.
In offering overflight and refueling facilities to States whose forces are engaged in bringing to justice those who carried out or assisted in the dreadful attacks on the United States and are seeking to prevent further such attacks, Ireland is living up to its responsibilities under Resolution 1368, as now reinforced by Resolution 1373. It can be seen as a tangible expression of our solidarity with the American people in the face of the terrible unprovoked onslaught of 11 September. Our offer to a country and a people who have in difficult times past supported Ireland is both right and honourable.
Concerns have been expressed that this might mean that Ireland will soon be involved in a war. It is not so. We continue our policy of military neutrality. We have not joined any military alliance. We are not committing Irish troops to action. The Government is simply acting to assist a concerted international response to deal with appalling acts of international terrorism pursuant to UN resolutions. And, most emphatically, Ireland is not neutral between freedom and terrorism. We have never been neutral in the face of international terrorism or in our unambiguous support of the United Nations. The offer of facilities was not raised in the special Dáil debate on 18 September for the simple reason that the Government, in a fluid and fast evolving situation, were still considering the options open to them at the time of the Dáil debate.
If innocent lives are to be protected, it is necessary to stand against those with intent to carry out acts of indiscriminate acts of terrorism. However, let me say again, that the Government expects any military response to be "proportionate, measured and focused on the pursuit of justice". The Government will be monitoring the situation carefully.
A Cheann Chomhairle,
In conclusion, let me say that the Government will continue to pursue a multi-faceted response to the present crisis. This will involve direct assistance in efforts to bring to justice those behind the attacks on the US, cooperation in efforts in UN and EU frameworks to combat international terrorism, and determined efforts to address the conflicts and injustices on which terrorism preys.
We will support action in conformity with the UN Charter, or in pursuit of Security Council Resolutions, against those who planned, supported and carried out these attacks. The US Government has made clear that it is embarking on a long and difficult campaign which will be pursued on a wide front, using diplomatic, military, economic and police assets. They have recognised the need to build the support of a broad international coalition, to act in a targeted manner and to offer clear justification for any action.
Since the dreadful attacks of 11 September, intensive efforts in various fora have been underway to improve the methods and responses available to the international community in combating terrorism. Ireland has been and will continue to be in the forefront of these efforts in the Security Council and with our partners in the European Union, and will play our full and active part in this critical international effort.