Thursday, 22 November 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
30. Mrs. Owen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will provide an update on the Rome Platform, concerning the Algerian situation, which was launched in 1994 by the Sant' Egidio Community in Rome. [29158/01]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): The Rome Platform, or Platform for a National Contract, is the name given to an initiative launched in Rome in January 1995 by the leading opposition parties and groups in Algeria. The initiative was the result of talks held under the auspices of the Sant' Egidio Community, a public lay association of the Roman Catholic Church, based in Rome and dedicated to fostering dialogue as a means of resolving conflicts.
 The platform made an appeal to the parties to the conflict in Algeria for an end to hostilities to allow for the restoration of calm and for the establishment of a transitional government of national unity which would prepare free multi-party elections. The platform also called for the release of political prisoners and for the unbanning of the main opposition party, the FIS. The parties to the platform committed themselves to the renunciation of violence and to full respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The platform was widely welcomed at the time as a possible means to achieving a peaceful political solution to the conflict in Algeria. However, its proposals were rejected by the then Algerian Government which had not participated in the talks. The Government insisted that any proposal for dialogue should be presented in Algeria and condemned the talks as foreign interference in Algeria's internal affairs. The platform was also rejected by the leading militant opposition group, the GIA, which reaffirmed its commitment to the establishment by armed struggle of a fundamentalist Islamic state.
In the immediate period following the Rome talks, numerous unsuccessful efforts were made to consolidate and build upon the platform. However, since that period there have been significant developments in Algeria aimed at consolidating democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. Presidential and parliamentary elections have taken place and there have been important reforms to the Algerian constitution. As a result of these efforts, a number of the main opposition forces involved in the Rome Platform ended their boycott of the political process in Algeria. The current Algerian Government comprises a number of the key parties which participated in the Rome talks.
Efforts on the part of international community to help Algeria bring an end to the tragic conflict in that country are continuing. These build upon the principles as developed in the dialogue first established by the Sant' Egidio Community. One of the most important of these is the report of the eminent panel appointed by the UN Secretary General. It concluded that efforts to end the conflict in Algeria must take place within the framework of legality, proportionality, and respect for the fundamental human rights of the Algerian people, that the law enforcement, security and self defence forces should be held to the highest standards of accountability so that the Algerian population and the international community at large will feel confident that the rule of law prevails in Algeria, and that it is with more democracy and more respect for human rights that terrorism can be successfully fought.
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