Minister O'Donnell Opens Kosovo Conference
Speaking this morning on the theme of "Ireland and the Kosovo Conflict" at the opening of the 21st Annual Conference of the Royal Irish Academy, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Liz O'Donnell T.D., said that the key question now for the international community is to work out how to manage the crisis in Kosovo in a way that protects the interests of the Kosovars themselves, while avoiding further destabilisation in neighbouring countries, especially the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro. At a broader level, the Minister said, there is the issue of how the experience of Kosovo can be used in improving the ability of the international community to respond effectively and rapidly to international crises.
Paying tribute to the humanitarian response of Government Departments, the Defence Forces, the Gardaí, local authorities, health boards, NGOs and local communities, the Minister said that:
"Irish soldiers, police, diplomats and aid workers have all been directly involved in a wide range of multilateral activities - including those under the auspices of the United Nations, the OSCE, and the European Union. We have contributed, through international agencies and through our own NGOs, very substantial amounts of assistance. We have military contingents serving in both SFOR and KFOR. We have provided shelter for Bosnian and Kosovar refugees here in Ireland. And we have been active, at the international level, especially within the framework of the EU, in efforts to bring war criminals to justice and to try to secure stability and peace for the region as a whole. Public opinion in Ireland was outraged by the massacres in Bosnia and the mass murder of Kosovars earlier this year. Parliamentary attention, too, in both Houses of the Oireachtas and in the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs has focussed on the issue."
Noting that peace and stability in the region - including Kosovo itself - is dependent on democratisation in Serbia and the reintegration of Serbia into the international community, Minister O'Donnell said that the international community must be given an enhanced and clearer legal basis for intervention in the defence of human rights and called for the strengthening of the UN's ability to respond to such issues. In particular, she said, the question of the veto power of Security Council Permanent Members should be addressed.