Thursday, 10 November 2005
Question 6: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has communicated with the Iranian ambassador to Ireland since the recent comments of the President of Iran relating to Israel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33271/05]
Question 67: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government's position on the recent statement by the President of Iran regarding Israel; the subsequent decision of the UN Security Council in this regard; and the actions the Government favours in terms of reducing tensions in the region. [33500/05]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 67 together.
I was appalled by the reported statement by President Ahmadinejad on 26 October on the existence of the state of Israel. Officials of my Department immediately contacted the Iranian Embassy in Dublin to convey the Government's clear view that the reported comments of the President were entirely unacceptable. The ambassador of Iran was not in Dublin — we have since been formally notified that he has been recalled by his Government — and our views were conveyed at the most senior diplomatic level available. I also made a public statement condemning the reported comments and in subsequent media interviews repeated the view already conveyed to the Iranian authorities that remarks on these lines can only have a negative effect in a troubled region and contribute nothing to relations between the EU and Iran.
The President's statement came on the day of another horrific suicide attack in Israel which took the lives of five people and injured many more. I strongly condemned this attack and expressed my concern that the President of Iran should have chosen to make these comments against such a background of hate-inspired violence.
On the same day, the UN Secretary General, Mr. Annan, expressed his dismay at the remarks of President Ahmadinejad and on 28 October they were condemned by the UN Security Council. The Secretary General has also postponed a planned visit to Iran.
The meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, which I attended in Brussels on 7 November, also condemned the President's comments in the strongest terms. The Council deplored calls for violence and for the destruction of any state. It emphasised that these comments cause concern about Iran's role in the region and its future intentions.
I welcome the immediate and firm response of the international community on this issue. The Iranian Government can have been left in no doubt of the international isolation in which its President's remarks placed it. It is notable that the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has already stated publicly that Iran is not threatening any other state.
Looking to the future with a view to the reduction of tensions in the region, the General Affairs and External Relations Council underlined the long-standing importance which the EU attaches to sustainable political and economic reform in Iran and the importance of the comprehensive dialogue between the EU and Iran as an appropriate framework for discussing issues of mutual interest and concern. These include areas of long-standing concern to the EU, such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Iran's approach to the Middle East peace process, human rights and fundamental freedoms and regional issues. The evolution of the long-term relationship, including the avoidance of a deterioration in relations between the EU and Iran, will depend on action by Iran to address effectively all the EU's concerns.
As I have tabled Question No. 9 on Iran's nuclear programme, I will discuss that issue further when the question is being addressed.
My original question concerned the communications made with the ambassador. There have been press reports that the ambassador, who came here in June, was arrested in Teheran during his summer holidays and is now being held on charges in Evin prison. Has official notification been received from the Iranian Embassy regarding the status of the ambassador?
I condemn the outrageous comments made by the President of Iran with regard to Israel. His statement is merely a further example of the incitements of that region. What does the European Union plan in response to the statement?
The Iranian ambassador is not in residence in Dublin. Previous to the President's comments, we were made aware from newspaper reports of the detention but we only received official word in the past week to the effect that he is no longer the ambassador.
I note the Deputy's response to the Iranian President's comments.
The EU response was issued last Monday. It was a very strong response from the 25 members of the EU. However, this is built into the issue of the nuclear programme currently in place in Iran. The discussions on the nuclear issue are at a very sensitive phase and in the next fortnight there will be a board of governors' meeting of the IAEA. Obviously we are trying to arrive at a situation where the dialogue that has taken place, but which is now temporarily suspended, will be renewed. Ultimately, we want to arrive at a point where there is full transparency regarding what is going on in Iran with its nuclear programme to ensure that it fits in with the NPT.
I issued a statement some time ago, when the Iranian President's comments were made, which was very similar to that issued by the Minister. I condemned the comments. Question No. 67 refers to the response of the UN Security Council. I suggest that it is significant that the Security Council was unanimous in issuing its statement.
With reference to the IAEA, the Non-proliferation Treaty needs to be revived in terms of the fullness of its articles, with its obligations on the existing nuclear powers clearly being addressed again. One could argue that the Irish position at the founding of this treaty at the United Nations was very significant. Then we had partial compliance by the super powers for a period but in more recent times the suggestion has arisen that non-proliferation can be interpreted almost exclusively in terms of newly-acquiring States. This is a serious fault line in the international process.
Question No. 67 also refers to the question of reducing tensions in the area and we need to see positive movement on this issue. The Iranian statements against Israel I have condemned unequivocally, as all people should. However, there is also the issue of significant progress on the Palestinian issue, requiring a reduction in the settlement activity, in accordance with the quartet proposals, on the part of Israel itself.
We are right to keep the issue of the comments on Israel by Iran as one of straight condemnation, shared by the international community. However, making progress on the other issues affecting Iran requires putting them in the context of a revived interest in the general principles of the Non-proliferation Treaty and also of regional strategies, including stopping Israeli extension of its settlement activity.
The Deputy has put the issue very well. As I have said, the result of the UN summit and the review conference on NPT was nothing short of a disgrace and I said as much in my statement on behalf of Ireland at that time. It was, and is, hypocritical for the larger powers, that already have nuclear arms, to put a strong emphasis on non-proliferation when in fact, the NPT is also a disarmament treaty and should be seen as such.
There are two sides to this argument and that is why I welcomed what Mr. Kofi Annan said at the end of the UN Summit, in his initial words, where he said that it was "a disgrace" on the international community. I have pledged that Ireland, as one of the authors of the NPT, will assist in whatever way it can. Unfortunately, we are in a world that is even more dangerous now than it was during the post-war era when the NPT was put in place. There are also a number of countries, some of which are in the Middle East, that are not party to the NPT. At least Iran is party to NPT. The important thing now is to keep Iran within that system so that we can use the instruments available to the international community in this respect.
While it is correct to say that the comment on Israel is a separate issue and should be condemned separately, all of this is interlinked. It is linked with the ongoing conflict in Palestine and Israel.