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Written Answers. - Foreign Conflicts.

Tuesday, 3 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 4

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 210. Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  the Government's position on the right of the Tibetan people to self-determination. [24607/02]

 211. Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  the way in which he plans to promote negotiations following the resumption of contact between Chinese and Tibetan representatives. [24608/02]

 212. Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  if he plans to table a Dáil resolution on Tibet, such as that recently adopted by the Italian Parliament. [24609/02]

 213. Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  his views on the call for an EU special representative on Tibet. [24610/02]

 214. Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  if the Government plans to recognise the Government of Tibet in exile as the legitimate representative of the Tibetan people if no resolution to the present conflict is reached by 6 July 2003. [24611/02]

 215. Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  if the Government will sponsor a Tibet resolution at the UN Commission on Human Rights; and if the Government will raise the issue of the Tibetan right to self-determination at the next meeting of the UN General Assembly. [24612/02]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen I propose to take Questions Nos. 210 to 215, inclusive, together.

In common with its EU partners, Ireland regards Tibet as an integral part of China, and the Government of the People's Republic of China, as the only legal government of China. The Government believes that the best way to achieve progress in relation to the situation in Tibet is through peaceful dialogue between the Government in Beijing and the Dalai Lama.

The Government, in bilateral contacts with China, and through contacts between the European Union and China, has consistently called on the Chinese Government to engage in meaningful [1056] dialogue with the Dalai Lama, and to respect fully the rights of the Tibetan people.

The Taoiseach met Premier Zhu of China in September 2001, and I met my Chinese counterpart, Minister Tang, in January of this year. Both of us took advantage of these opportunities to highlight the level of concern in Ireland in relation to Tibet, and strongly encouraged our Chinese counterparts to engage in meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama on issues of concern. Since then, the Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, met Mrs. Kesang Takla, the London-based representative of the Dalai Lama, who briefed him on the current situation in Tibet.

In September of this year, two special envoys of the Dalai Lama visited Beijing and Tibet. The purpose of their visit was to explain the Dalai Lama's proposal for a middle way and to allay Chinese concerns that this would promote Tibetan secession from China. In common with our EU partners, Ireland welcomed this visit. The head of the Dalai Lama's delegation said in a statement that he had been impressed by the greater flexibility in attitude displayed by the current Chinese leaders. The Dalai Lama welcomed the positive gesture by the leadership in Beijing in receiving the delegation, and was very pleased that a renewed contact had been established. For our part, I hope this visit will pave the way for direct dialogue between the Chinese Government and the Dalai Lama, leading to a peaceful and lasting solution to the Tibetan question.

On the issue of an EU special representative, in March last year the Dalai Lama sent a letter to the EU Presidency, and to Foreign Ministers of EU member states, asking the EU to appoint an EU special representative to Tibet. The EU discussed this request and replied with a joint response later that month, deciding not to make such an appointment as it was felt that any EU representative would be unable to contribute effectively to the situation in Tibet without Chinese support.

As regards the Commission on Human Rights, the EU, in its statement at this year's session on the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world, expressed its extreme concern about the intensified repression against persons belonging to ethnic minorities in Tibet. Ireland, which will begin a three year term on the Council in January 2003, will work closely with partners to identify priorities to be pursued by the EU at the forthcoming Commission. However, there would be a general concern that any attempt to introduce a resolution at the Commission on Human Rights or the UN General Assembly would prejudice ongoing efforts by the EU to initiate a peaceful and meaningful dialogue with the Chinese authorities on a range of human rights issues, including Tibet.

As part of this ongoing dialogue, the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway participates in, and is the co-ordinator on the EU side, of the EU-China human rights seminar, which was established to encourage the exchange of views [1057] between human rights experts from the EU and China.

I am aware that a resolution on Tibet was adopted by the lower house of the Italian Parliament on 9 October 2002. For the reasons outlined above, I would not envisage introducing a similar resolution in the Dáil. At the same time, I would wish to emphasise that the Government will continue to avail of every opportunity to raise its concerns regarding the situation in Tibet with the Chinese authorities.


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