Thursday, 29 June 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
85. Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government’s views on whether the British and American Governments’ interpretation of UN resolutions which both Governments assert gave UN sanction to military attacks on Iraq were valid interpretations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25213/06]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): On the outbreak of the war in Iraq, the Taoiseach moved a motion which was adopted by the Dáil on 20 March 2003, which reaffirmed Ireland’s commitment to the United Nations as the guarantor of collective global security and the appropriate forum for the resolution of disputes threatening international peace and security. In his statement to the House, the Taoiseach acknowledged that there was no clear legal consensus on whether there was a mandate for the use of force against Iraq, based on previous Security Council resolutions. He noted that the arguments put forward by the coalition asserting the existence of a mandate were also supported by a number of countries which were not participating in the military action. However, he made clear the Government’s position that Ireland would not participate in the military campaign without an explicit further Security Council mandate. This remains the Government’s position on the circumstances of the invasion in 2003.
In relation to current military activity, it is clear that the international forces now serving in Iraq are operating under UN mandate, and at the request of the democratically-elected Iraqi Government. The presence of the Multi-National Force in Iraq was authorised by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1511 of October 2003. The authorisation was reaffirmed in Resolution 1546 of June 2004, and was extended to the end of 2006 by Resolution 1637, which was adopted unanimously by the Security Council in November 2005.
160. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the international community is in a position to monitor the situation in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25474/06]
The significant progress achieved in Afghanistan over the past four years should be acknowledged, although clearly considerable challenges still remain. The Afghan people have elected a President and Parliament and have a legitimate elected Government which is working to consolidate the progress that has been made. For the first time, issues of national importance are openly debated in Parliament giving the Afghan people, through their elected representatives, the opportunity to make their concerns heard. The reform process is continuing, with the assistance of the international community, across all sectors, including the police service, the Afghan National Army and the judicial system.
In any country, developing the democratic structures, institutions and administrative systems necessary to provide essential public services and ensure a secure environment for all is a process that takes time. Ensuring security in Afghanistan is an especially challenging and complex task, particularly given the presence of violent factions who stand to benefit considerably from a destabilised country. The security situation remains a cause of serious concern. Levels of insurgency-related violence have risen since the beginning of the year and attacks, including suicide bombings, aimed at the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), other international security forces and Afghan security forces, have increased.
The Afghan National Army (ANA) and international security forces have been engaged in heavy fighting with Taliban insurgents in Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces in the Southern part of the country in recent weeks. Such fighting is expected to continue over the summer months as the ANA and international forces expand their operations into remoter areas in the South. The UN-mandated ISAF, which at present has some 9000 troops providing security assistance in Kabul and the North and West, is currently expanding its operations to Southern Afghanistan. The expansion will involve the deployment of an additional 7000 troops and will assist the Afghan Government in extending its authority across the country. The further expansion of the ISAF will clearly be of assistance to the international community in continuing to closely monitor the situation there.
The illicit narcotics industry remains a major challenge to the long-term security, development and effective governance of Afghanistan. Counter-narcotics was identified as a priority area in the EU-Afghanistan Joint Declaration signed on 16 November 2005. The Afghan Government operates a Counter Narcotics Implementation Plan and a National Drugs Control Strategy in an effort to work towards elimination of the narcotics trade. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime, in its 2006 World Drug Report published this week, has reported that the area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan decreased by 21% from 2004 to 2005.
An Afghanistan Compact was launched at the International Conference on Afghanistan in London on 31 January/1 February and was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 1659 (2006) on 15 February. The Compact will guide the joint efforts of the Afghan Government and the international community in meeting outstanding challenges across three pillars of activity: security; governance; rule of law and human rights, and economic and social development. Counter-narcotics was identified as a cross-cutting priority in the Compact. The Compact notes that Afghanistan’s transition to peace and stability is not yet assured and that strong international engagement will be required to address remaining challenges.
I am pleased that Ireland was in a position to pledge €5 million at the launch of the Compact. This new pledge, which will be expended over the next two years, reflects Ireland’s continuing commitment to supporting the reconstruction and reform process underway in Afghanistan. Including this new pledge, Ireland has contributed a total of €22 million to reconstruction and recovery programmes in Afghanistan since January 2002.
There are a number of mechanisms in place to facilitate international monitoring of the situation in Afghanistan. Participating countries in ISAF, which includes a small Irish presence of seven Defence Force personnel, are on the ground to discharge their mandate and to monitor the situation. From an EU perspective, an important role is played by the EU Special Representative for Afghanistan, Mr. Francesc Vendrell, whose Office in Kabul provides regular briefings to Member States on developments in the country. The Deputy to the EUSR is an Irish national. The EUSR’s Office, together with the European Commission, actively participates in the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, a body established by the Afghan Government and the international community to oversee the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan provides periodic reports to the UN Security Council on the situation in the country. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Afghanistan, Mr. Tom Koenigs, and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), also play an important role in monitoring the situation in Afghanistan.
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