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Written Answers. - Arms Trade.

Wednesday, 27 March 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 551 No. 3

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 52. Mr. S. Ryan Information on Seán Ryan Zoom on Seán Ryan  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  the initiatives Ireland proposes to take during its membership of the Security Council to curb the enormous global expenditure on armaments, such as regulations to limit their distribution and sanctions for their dissemination without conditions to various areas of conflict; the priorities Ireland has chosen for its membership of the Security Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10258/02]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen While the Security Council has specific responsibilities in relation to the maintenance of international peace and security, it does not have primary responsibility within the UN system for dealing with disarmament issues. As a SECCO member, Ireland has taken every opportunity to try to reduce the proliferation of small arms to areas of conflict, in particular in Africa. We have played an active role in ensuring the effective implementation of UN sanctions in countries such as Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia which aim to reduce the flow of arms to these conflict areas.

Elsewhere in the UN system, much of the prac[788] tical work of devising general principles in relation to disarmament takes place in the UN Disarmament and International Security Committee, commonly known as the First Committee, of which Ireland is a member. The First Committee meets during the UNGA session to deal with the disarmament issues on the agenda of that session, and its consultations shape the tone of the disarmament debate. Ireland is an active participant in this committee and will, in 2002, use all useful opportunities to ensure that the pursuit of disarmament and non-proliferation stays at the fore of the committee's deliberations and output.

With regard to nuclear weapons, which is one of the costliest forms of the arms race, Ireland has a long-standing active commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, whose review cycle resumes in April of this year. Together with our New Agenda partners, Ireland will be active in pursuing the objectives of this treaty.

In July of 2001 the UN Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects took place in New York. Ireland played a very active role in this conference and worked with European Union partners to achieve the strongest possible outcome. The major issues dealt with by the conference were export criteria and controls, tracing and marking of weapons and regulation of brokers. The programme of action agreed, by consensus, contains politically binding commitments at national, regional and international level. It also establishes a framework for follow-up action including provision for a review conference to be held in 2006.

Ireland also played a key role in the negotiations for the 1997 Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and continues to advocate the need for all states to accede to the convention in order to ensure a worldwide ban on these weapons. Ireland has made ongoing contributions to humanitarian mine action programmes. Since 1994 Ireland has spent just under €9 million on a wide variety of de-mining and rehabilitation projects as part of its humanitarian assistance projects.

I can assure the Deputy that Ireland will continue to use its voice and influence where it can be useful in making progress on the issues of arms production and proliferation in all their aspects.

In relation to the Deputy's question about the priorities for our membership of SECCO, our key priorities at the council have been to promote Ireland's broad foreign policy interests, values and objectives and to make a constructive contribution to the work of the council in the maintenance of international peace and security. Ireland is now in our second year as a member of the Security Council and I believe that we have been successful in achieving both of these aims.

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