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Other Questions. - UN Security Council.

Wednesday, 27 March 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 551 No. 3

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[642]

 29. Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin Information on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin Zoom on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  if a new mandate is likely to be sought at the Security Council of the United Nations to extend the war in Afghanistan to other countries; the position the Government will take if it is sought; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10270/02]

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen The Government is not aware of any proposal to seek a Security Council mandate to extend the military action in Afghanistan to other countries. The Government very much hopes that there will be no extension of military action beyond that undertaken in Afghanistan. We regard the use of military force as a matter of absolute last resort and will make every effort to ensure that any further effort to eradicate international terrorism is achieved through peaceful means. As the Deputy will be aware, the UN has primary responsibility for resolving international crises. We consider that multilateral co-operation remains the best approach in tackling international terrorism and the root causes of conflict and terrorism including poverty, injustice, abuse of human rights and the proliferation of small arms. Ireland will continue to work to this end.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins What does the Minister see as the precise end point of the two resolutions that govern the action in Afghanistan? I am particularly concerned about Somalia and Yemen. The Minister will be aware that in both cases there have been unilateral statements from the United States about what it hopes to do. Somalia is the most urgent case. I want to be generous to our officials who managed to have Somalia brought to the top of the agenda during the Irish presidency of the Security Council. Ordinary Somali citizens are currently suffering in near famine conditions in expectation of a strike against their country. Such a strike is not covered by any UN resolution. Statements have been made—

Acting Chairman (Mr. Kirk): Information on Seamus Kirk Zoom on Seamus Kirk Is the Deputy beginning to make a speech?

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins No. I welcome what the Minister has said about multi-lateralism. Does he agree that the threatening unilateral statements made about these countries is not consistent with what he has said?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen The core point of the Deputy's question dealt with the remit and existing legal basis of the Security Council resolutions in respect of possible military action against countries other than Afghanistan. Security Council Resolution 1368 of 12 September 2001 recognised the attacks as a threat to international peace and security. The resolution called “on all States to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks and stresses that those responsible for [643] aiding, supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of these acts will be held accountable”. If evidence were forthcoming that the Governments of one or more states were involved in harbouring those involved in the atrocities of 11 September 2001, then those Governments would also be held accountable under the terms of Resolution 1368. If they were to refuse to remove the threat to international peace and security posed by their support for international terrorism, they would find themselves potentially liable to international action. As I said, we regard the use of military force as a matter of absolute last resort and will make every effort to ensure that any further effort to eradicate international terrorism is achieved through peaceful means.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins We have now come to the nub of the matter. Resolution 1368 was quoted by the Minister. The construction of that resolution is such that it is open-ended and permits action anywhere a threat is perceived. What demonstration of a willingness to provide evidence has been shown to the Minister? What evidence is forthcoming? If the evidence requirement is removed from Resolution 1368, it is an open-ended permission to strike anywhere in the world. The only restraint in it is the requirement for evidence to be forthcoming. Has the evidence been forthcoming? Who has seen the evidence? Has Ireland, as a member of the Security Council, been offered convincing evidence? I gave examples of threats being made against Somalia and Yemen.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen There is no military action against those states. Were action to be taken, it would have to be taken against states “responsible for aiding, supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of these acts [of 11 September]”. If Governments were involved in harbouring those involved in the atrocities – and evidence would have to be produced to satisfy the international community – they would be held accountable under the terms of the resolution. If they were found to be so harbouring, they must be given the opportunity to hand over those involved. The Taliban refused to hand over members of the al-Qaeda network and the action taken was within the terms of the resolution.

It is not a question of my interpretation providing a carte blanche for action without evidence. Under the terms of the resolution, those who harbour, support, aid or abet those responsible for the 11 September attacks find themselves open to the possible threat of military action. That would be within international law and the evidence to be provided would be to confirm that the legal basis exists for military action. We would hope, of course, not to get to that point. I am aware of statements that were made. We talk of the primacy of the United Nations and those are the [644] terms on which we expect the evidence to be provided for any military action.

Mr. Coveney: Is the UN Security Council presidency prioritising this issue? Does the Minister agree that if ever there was an example of an issue on which the Security Council should be leading from the front, it is the war on terrorism internationally? Is Ireland, as a member of the council, pushing for an open ended debate on this issue so that we can lead the way in policy instead of allowing the United States to act first and then seek a mandate from the Security Council? It should be the other way round.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen The United States is not determining the council's policy, which is set out in its unanimous resolutions. They relate to the circumstances in which military action can be taken and the financing of terrorism. That work is carried on through a United Nations committee which is ensuring that all countries comply and it provides assistance to those who do not have the innate capacity to comply with resolutions regarding the financing of terrorism.

The Deputy referred to an open ended debate, and we can have all the debates we want, but the legal basis for military action was grounded in international law in Resolution 1368 and those are the circumstances in which any further military action can be taken. I have clearly expressed the Government's view of what those circumstances have to be and the evidential basis for it. It is not a question of being dictated to by any individual state, but of adhering to the legal basis for the fight against terrorism provided by the two resolutions which we fully support, subscribe to and are working to implement, as all members of the international community are obliged to under the UN charter.


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