Wednesday, 12 March 1986
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Taylor: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement regarding the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and on whether Ireland voted in favour of Resolution 39/13 on the United Nations General Assembly; and the steps the Government are taking, or have taken, to assist the Afghan people in obtaining their sovereignty.
Mr. P. Barry: The war in Afghanistan is now in its seventh year. It is proceeding with an intensity that has brought appalling suffering to the Afghan people, almost five million of whom have been forced to flee the country. The report submitted by the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Felix Ermacora, to the current session of the Commission in Geneva on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan makes sombre reading. Mr. Ermacora also presented reports on this matter to last year's session of the Commission and to the UN General Assembly. Ireland has taken an active role in the human rights aspect by co-sponsoring resolutions which dealt with abuses of human rights in Afghanistan adopted at the Commission and the General Assembly last year. At the current session of the Commission in Geneva we are also co-sponsoring a similar resolution.
On the political level since the invasion of Afghanistan Ireland has consistently supported resolutions on the situation in that country at the UN General Assembly including Resolution 39/13 adopted in 1984. I take it that the Deputy is referring to that resolution. We supported a similar resolution last year.
We welcome and support the mediation efforts of the Secretary General's representative and believe that any solution must be based on the principles set out in successive UN resolutions. These principles include the withdrawal of foreign troops, the right of the Afghan  people to self-determination and the voluntary return in safety and honour of the refugees.
Mr. Taylor: I take it that when the Minister says “foreign troops” he means the Soviet forces? Will he confirm that? Have the EC Ministers discussed this matter recently, and, if so, what steps have they taken? Has the Minister discussed the question of Soviet involvement in Afghanistan with the Soviet Ambassador to Ireland at any time or does he intend to raise the matter with the Ambassador with a view to expressing the Government's view, if that is the view, that Soviet troops should withdraw from Afghanistan?
Mr. P. Barry: Yes, it is the Government's view and one we supported when it was put forward by the ten and now the 12 Ministers of the European Community. The Soviet Ambassador to Ireland is very well aware of the view of the Irish Government in this matter and of the views of the member states of the EC. We wish to see the Afghan people being allowed to decide, without interference, how to run their own country. We wish to see the refugees who had to flee their country being allowed to return home. We wish to see the Soviet troops who have invaded Afghanistan being withdrawn as quickly as possible. The European Ministers discussed Afghanistan frequently. I cannot give the Deputy the precise date of when the matter was last discussed as an item on the agenda but I can get that information for him. The fact that the matter is not formally on an agenda does not mean that there is not great concern among European Ministers about what is happening in Afghanistan. That concern has been reflected unanimously in the speeches delivered by the Twelve at the 40th session of the UN last autumn.
Mr. P. Barry: Yes, I do, and it is very much in the spirit of what I said in my reply, that a political solution by the Afghanistan people is the hope for a solution. I do not think it is possible to find that solution while there are foreign troops on that territory.
Mr. Taylor: While, as the Minister stated, the Soviet Ambassador to Ireland may be aware of the Government's views I should like to know if the Minister considers it appropriate to call in the Ambassador to discuss the matter with him specifying the Government's view clearly, if that has not been done.
Mr. P. Barry: I will consider what the Deputy has said but I have held, and continue to hold the view that the strongest voice in international affairs that Ireland can have is through its membership of the European Economic Community. When we can get the 12 nations acting together in a common cause it is infinitely stronger than 12 nations acting individually.
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