Tuesday, 23 October 2007
Human Rights Issues.
Dermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Louth, Fianna Fail)
In regard to an earlier question on trade posed by Deputy Naughten or Deputy Timmins, I said that no trade took place, but I wish to clarify that in 2006 a small trade figure of €152,000 is recorded, mainly in respect of the pharmaceutical sector.
Returning to Deputy Higgins's question, I agree with him about the access Mr. Pinheiro should receive. That is one of the reasons the EU is taking a particularly strong view on the human rights issue. On the basis of the Swedish proposal, we do not want to cut across what Dr. Gambari is doing. A proposal in regard to an EU envoy hopefully would dovetail exactly what he is doing to ensure that the views of the EU partners, particularly Ireland, Sweden and others who have emphasised the issue of human rights, are taken on board.
As regards the disappearance of people in Burma, it is the job of Dr. Gambari and Mr. Pinheiro to examine that issue and that ultimately depends on the type of access that is given by Burmese authorities. Thankfully, so far, they appear to be relatively open in terms of access that has been given. Dr. Gambari met Aung San Suu Kyi on two occasions when he was there recently, which we regarded as positive. We understand that in regard to Mr. Pinheiro's visit, facilitation will be given to allow him to examine the situation on the ground, but we will have to wait and see what happens.
In regard to dealing with the neighbouring countries, in the context of ASEAN, any suggestion that we should in some way turn our back on the discussions between the EU and ASEAN is not fruitful. Some suggest that a ban on the Olympic Games should be considered with regard to matters on which China has an influence, such as Darfur. With regard to Burma, China has been responsible and responsive to the international community's exhortation on facilitating visas for Dr. Gambari and Mr. Pinheiro. This also applies to being part of a strong ASEAN move against the Burmese regime. We must consider this and not rule out anything. We have a substantial presence in Dr. Gambari and the UN. Hopefully this will be supplemented by ASEAN and EU countries.