Press Conference following meeting of Andrews and Annan
I'm honoured by starting my opening remarks by saying what a great honour it is for me to welcome the Secretary General of the United Nations here. He has been a great friend of Ireland, he was, of course, in Ireland some three years ago in a different manifestation. I hope both himself and his dear wife will enjoy themselves during the course of their stay. The Secretary General, as you know, will be going to the Curragh, to the United Nations school at lunch time. A school which I myself had no small part in founding. I think Ireland was always sought to play a positive and constructive role in the United Nations and this opportunity of meeting the Secretary General who has demonstrated once again his personal commitment to the principles of the organisation over the years, has been particularly striking. The United Nations has faced a range of difficult problems in recent times but I know that you will agree that the personal interventions of the Secretary General have been very important. His knowledge of the United Nations and his particular expertise in the area of peace keeping, will I believe, ensure the future health of the organisation, and it does strike a chord with our country, this whole area of peace keeping. We have made a very big contribution to that element of the United Nations. 75 men have died in the service of international peace and we continue to operate in eight different missions. Most principally a mission where the Taoiseach has been over the last number of days, UNIFIL in South Lebanon. We have been playing a historic and heroic role there over the last twenty-one years. To return to our honoured guest, we discussed a range of issues today, including, peace keeping, UN financing and reform and various regional issues, such as, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Lybia, Iraq, Congo, East Timor, Angola and Sudan, which raises the question, would you like to be the Secretary General of the United Nations ? With a list of that nature, [ just a] part of your list. I took the opportunity of briefing the Secretary General on recent developments in Northern Ireland, including the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission. I also outlined our main activities in relation to development assistance, human rights and disarmament, including our involvement in the recent New Agenda initiative on nuclear disarmament. On peace keeping, I have already touched on that, Ireland's enormous role in that particular area. We agreed that the deteriorating situation in Kosovo was a great and continuing and urgent concern and that those responsible for the recent massacre in Recak should be brought to account for their deeds. We also agreed that the UN Criminal Tribunal team prosecutor, Louise Arbour, should be allowed to conduct her investigations and the Yugoslav authorities must facilitate the expulsion order against the head of the OSCE mission, Mr. William Walker, the American diplomat. In respect of Iraq, I told the Secretary General that Ireland had been fully supportive of his efforts in seeking a peaceful solution. I expressed regret that the situation arose whereby a decision to commence air strikes against Iraq was considered necessary, and again we shared our concerns about the humanitarian situation in Iraq, and I informed the Secretary General about our increased donation to the International Red Cross for humanitarian assistance. In conclusion, I discussed, as some of you may be aware, the whole question of East Timor, with the Portuguese Foreign Minister, who was here the other evening. I gave the Secretary General, at first hand, an account of my discussion with him, of my intention of visiting that part of the world and meeting with the East Timor leader, Guzmao , in due course, possibly after the conclusion of the 2000 negotiations, sometime late in March and it would be my intention to visit that part of the world some time in April. So it's particularly important that Indonesian military levels in East Timor be reduced, we discussed that, and that all sides refrain from further violence. So, I will now hand you over to the respected Secretary General of the United Nations and to say again how welcome both himself and his wife is to our country and how honoured we are.
Thank you very much Minister. Good morning. Let me begin by saying how happy I am to be back in Dublin again. It is important to have opportunity to exchange ideas with the leaders of Ireland, a Government that has been very actively engaged in all the activities of the United Nations. The Minister did indicate peace keeping, but you have also been very active on the humanitarian front. You volunteered assistance and not just at a Governmental level, but NGO's and Irish men and women, that we see around the world. The UN is at a very critical stage. The Minister read out to you the list of the crisis spots that we have today. As Secretary General, I have indicated that alone I can do nothing, but with the support of the Governments and civil society and people like yourself, we can tackle some of these issues and win some of them. I would hope that some of the crises that we are dealing with today, we will be able to find some solutions to detain the situation and bring the suffering of the people to an end. It's a messy world we live in, but we should not give up and I think we should join hands and try and do whatever we can.
Reporter with question(Not clear) Ref. Yugoslavia/Kosovo
I hope it is not too late to get the Yugoslav Government to change its position. I spoke to the Yugoslav Foreign Minister this morning, urging the Government to rescind the decision on Walker, and regretted the fact that they have not cooperated to get an independent investigation going. Obviously there are forensic aspects but the investigation would be more credible if there was an independent third party.
Reporter with Question(Not clear) Ref. Yugoslavia/Kosovo
Not at this stage, but it is not excluded. We are dealing with a situation where sometimes leaders go all the way to the brink and then climb down again. So I would not say that it is excluded.
Reporter with question(Not clear) Ref. Angola
It's a troika, what we call a troika, the troika, is Russia, United States and Portugal. In addition to that some of the African states know that even if we are not able to operate there will be some political presence. Of course that would also require the agreement of the parties and the Government, which until Friday last, was maintaining the position that they would not agree to an extension. Given the situation on the ground, the presence will be more psychological, than anything else. What I would want to say is that peace keepers who go in to help in these situations, and the mediators can do a lot, if the parties are willing to cooperate. In instances where they have cooperated, it has helped. Mozambique was in a similar situation, but in Mozambique, we were able to get the rebels to put down their guns, participate in elections and today is a loyal opposition. Why does it work in Mozambique but not in Angola, because we had the cooperation and the will of those concerned, to bring about peace and I hope that some day that will come in Angola.
Reporter with question(Not clear) Ref. Partnership for Peace to Sec Gen Annan
Forgive me, it is not my intention to snap a question from the Secretary General, but it's really a matter for the Irish Government and the Irish people and that as you know, a discussion and a debate has been set in place by myself and supported by our Taoiseach in a recent speech in University Dublin. I understand too that the opposition have put down a motion to have a discussion in the Dail. So that's where it stands.
Reporter with question(Not clear) Ref. Ireland's bid for Security Council seat
Well, I again mentioned the matter of our pursuit of a seat in the Security Council. The upcoming elections, next year, in October, for membership in 2001 and 2002. Two seats, three countries, ourselves, Norway and Turkey. So somebody has to be the loser and it would be my intention as the Minister for Foreign Affairs in this country to ensure that we are not going to lose, but I did mention to the Secretary General, the prospect of our membership. But again the Secretary General will have to be seen to be neutral in that regard and I just mentioned it to him. I didn't ask him in fairness, as a guest in my country, as his host, to comment on the matter.
Reporter with question(Not clear) Ref. Northern Ireland
Minister for Foreign Affairs
As I explained to the Secretary General, I went throught the peace process from beginning to end, highlighting the important dates, not least of all Good Friday, the referendum, the election to the Assembly and right across the whole spectrum and we concluded that it was better that the peace process go on to its proper conclusion as an alternative to what has happened on the island of Ireland over thirty years, where you had three thousand people plus dead at the hands of paramilitaries and others and many thousands of people injured and some beyond repair. So I expressed to the Secretary General my optimism that the peace process will conclude within the timescales, hopefully proposed by my good colleague, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, over the recent numbers of days.
I had the chance of seeing Ms Mowlam in New York last week, where we also discussed the issue which I have just discussed with the Minister this morning. It will not come as a surprise to you when I say that many people around the world who are following this process very closely and rooting for it. A success here would be an inspiration for many people in other divided lines. So let's make it work. Thank you.