Thursday, 24 March 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
126. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the engagement he has had with his counterparts in Russia, either bilaterally or through Ireland’s membership of the United Nations Security Council since February 2022, to bring about an end to the war in Ukraine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15467/22]
145. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of the recent meeting between the Irish ambassador to Russia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in that country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15326/22]
147. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the last time he met with the Russian ambassador; and if he requested the ambassador to correct the statement that he gave to the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. [15331/22]
161. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the recent engagement he or his Department have had with the Russian ambassador; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15325/22]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 83, 126, 145, 147 and 161 together.
I was not sure whether this question was purely about Ukraine or about the broader relationship with Russia. I will give the Deputy answers on both.
Ireland has kept channels for dialogue with Russia open, and my officials have had numerous engagements with Russian interlocutors on Ukraine. During such engagements, we have consistently made clear to Russia that we view its aggression against Ukraine since 2014 as unacceptable. In all our interactions, we have also been clear on the need to uphold international law, especially the UN charter. We have also called for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory. We have been unwavering in our expression of solidarity to Ukraine, and insisted on its sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.
In May 2021, in a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov I raised the detention of opposition political leader Alexei Navalny, treatment of minorities within Russia, the situation in Ukraine and Russian actions in the Czech Republic as points of friction and departure. In a bilateral meeting with Minister Lavrov at the UN in September 2021, I reiterated Ireland’s long-standing position against Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
Since Russia's further invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, my officials have formally registered Ireland's opposition to Russia's actions with the Russian ambassador. My Department is carefully monitoring the progression of direct talks between Ukraine and Russia. Ireland stands ready to support any initiative which can deliver peace, in line with international humanitarian law as well as international human norms and standards, and which respects Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.
Ireland's positions are well known and we have been consistent in meetings with Russian interlocutors. This consistency extends to meetings between our ambassador to Russia and the Russian Government. I have no influence over the Russian ambassador's statements to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I know that matter has been raised by some. In short, we speak to the Russian Embassy all the time at senior official level. Sometimes those conversations involve me. I can assure the Deputy that we are direct and consistent in the messages we are sending.
I fully appreciate that channels for dialogue are open and that they are constant and consistent. Have they led to anything? Is there any progress? The Minister briefly mentioned the ambassador's performance before the Oireachtas foreign affairs committee. I note equally his performance on RTÉ and his slew of absolutely offensive statements.
In more practical terms, the embassy is in my own constituency of Dublin Rathdown. There is understandable desire from so many people to protest against the continuing Russian presence in Ukraine. Practically, however, this is having an impact on the residents on Orwell Road and nearby. At what point does the need for expulsion here, as we have seen in other European member states, become not just an aspiration but a reality? Is keeping the channels open actually achieving anything when they continue to put out a slew of disinformation and maintain two defence attachés? Let us not forget that Russia continues to bomb women and children out of their houses in Ukraine on a daily basis.
It is my judgment that having a diplomatic channel for communication and sending messages makes sense on lots of levels. Even if there is a war going on, people need to talk. If we are going to continue to try to bring an end to that war, talking is necessary and diplomatic interventions are necessary, even if we fundamentally disagree with the people we are talking to in terms of the approach they are taking and the legality of that internationally.
Having said that, we are assessing whether the extent of the presence and the Russian diplomatic footprint in Ireland is appropriate. We continue to speak to a number of other EU countries that are doing the same. This week, a number of EU countries have made decisions in that regard. I suspect there will be decisions, next week perhaps, by other member states. When we are ready to make decisions from an Irish perspective, we will do so.