Thursday, 29 June 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): On 21 May, the Iraqi Parliament approved the new national unity Government presented by Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. The formation of the Government was completed when the crucial positions of Defence, Interior and National Security Ministers were filled on 8 June. The new Cabinet is very broadly based, and it includes the main parties representing the Sunni community. This is a welcome and significant step forward for Iraq and for its people. It has been warmly welcomed by the European Union. Iraq now has a fully sovereign and democratic Government and Parliament, mandated for four years. The political transition process set out in United Nations Security Council Resolutions has been completed.
There is no doubt that the Iraqi Government now faces major political, economic and security challenges. However, perhaps for the first time in its history, Iraq has a democratic Government representing all of its people, which was freely chosen by them. We recognise this very significant achievement, which required the engagement of all the major political parties in Iraq. The all-party Iraqi delegation which visited Ireland last week provided impressive evidence of the courage and determination of the Iraqi people as they work to rebuild their country following decades of dictatorship and war.
The Government and its EU partners remain firmly committed to supporting the Iraqi people in restoring security and prosperity to their country. Since 2003, the EU has provided over €700 million in assistance for the reconstruction of Iraq. At its meeting on 16 June, the European Council adopted a Declaration on Iraq, which stressed that continuing EU support will be delivered in partnership with the new Government, and in line with its priorities.
The serious campaign of violence which forms the background to this political progress remains a matter of grave concern. Iraqi citizens are being targeted in openly sectarian bomb attacks, kidnappings and shootings, which continue to take a terrible toll of deaths and serious injuries. Despite their refusal to be provoked into large scale civil strife, the evidence is that sectarian retaliation and violence have unfortunately been rising steadily. It appears that, in some areas, minority communities are reacting by moving to areas where they feel more secure. It is probably still too early to form a judgement on whether the death of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, will affect the overall security situation.
The EU is supporting the Iraqi Government in its efforts to establish the rule of law and a culture of respect for human rights. It is also working with the Iraqi authorities, with the United Nations, and with the Arab League to support the national reconciliation process. I hope that the national reconciliation plan which Prime Minister Al-Maliki presented to Parliament on 25 June will mark an important development in this process.
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