Tuesday, 10 May 2022
Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
74. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of the activities being undertaken by the Government on the United Nations Security Council and within the European Union in order to aid the Ukrainian people and help bring an end to the conflict in Ukraine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23371/22]
I ask the Minister to provide details of the actions being taken by the Government on the UN Security Council and within the EU in terms of providing assistance to Ukraine, given that we are coming close to three months since the illegal invasion by Russia of Ukraine. What actions have been taken by Ireland to push for a diplomatic and peaceful solution to this brutal war?
Ireland has been a staunch and unwavering supporter of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. We are not, and should not be, neutral in this war. That does not mean that we are undermining traditional Irish neutrality. We are not doing so. We remain militarily non-aligned, but that does not mean Ireland does not take sides when a country is blatantly breaking international law and the UN Charter and brutalising another country, which is what is happening as we speak.
We should not be neutral on that issue.
On 19 April, I promised the Mayor of Bucha, Mr. Anatoliy Fedoruk, and the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dmytro Kuleba, that I would brief the UN Security Council on my visit to Ukraine. I was the first foreign minister of any country to visit Kiev. A number of prime ministers were there before me. I committed to highlighting Russia’s disregard for international humanitarian law. Ireland will continue to use our membership on the UN Security Council to hold Russia accountable for its actions, as we would hold any country breaching international law accountable for its actions.
On 4 May, the European Commission presented proposals for a sixth package of sanctions aimed at depriving Russia and Belarus of the ability to wage war on Ukraine. The package targets additional Russian and Belarusian banks, including Sberbank, Russia's largest bank. Three big Russian state-owned broadcasters responsible for Russian state propaganda will be sanctioned and will be unable to distribute their content in any form in the EU or attract advertising. A complete import ban on all Russian oil is also proposed, to be introduced in an orderly and staged fashion.
Ireland has allocated €20 million in direct humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and neighbouring countries via the International Committee of the Red Cross and UN agencies. Additionally, at EU level, Ireland has contributed €11.5 million to EU humanitarian assistance of €550 million. On 5 May, the Taoiseach participated in a pledging conference that raised €6.15 billion in humanitarian and economic supports for Ukraine.
The EU is committed to providing support to the Ukrainian Government for its immediate needs and the reconstruction of a democratic Ukraine. To that end, EU leaders agreed to set up a Ukraine solidarity trust fund. The EU is thus far providing €1.5 billion in the European Peace Facility to support the Ukrainian armed forces. Ireland is contributing its full share, at €33 million so far, that will go towards non-lethal weapons only.
I thank the Minister. I absolutely agree that Russia needs to be held to account for its brutal invasion and human rights violations, including the murder of innocent civilians in Bucha and other towns and cities across Ukraine. I welcome the moves for the International Criminal Court, ICC, to hold Russia to account. The heroism displayed by Ukrainian forces in the face of the brutal onslaught is an inspiration to the world. Ultimately, however, it is diplomacy that will bring a conclusion to this barbaric war. The international community has to be responsible and work tirelessly to develop a space that would allow both protagonists enter into meaningful talks to bring an end to this brutal war. What actions are being taken? There have been some failed attempts. It is probable that Russia was not being truthful in terms of engaging with Ukraine in the early days of the invasion. What actions and measures are being taken by Ireland on the Security Council and within the EU to push for that space and to allow that diplomacy to take place?
I agree with the tenor of the question. Of course, ultimately, this is about bringing the war to an end. Like every other country, we have to find ways of doing that. While that is proving impossible at the moment because the Kremlin does not want the war to end yet and, therefore, there is no basis for a possible ceasefire right now, that does not mean we should not keep trying. In the meantime, we have to put in place the strongest possible deterrents to the continuation of the war. That means very tough sanctions and helping the Ukrainians to defend themselves, as well as being as generous as we can from a humanitarian point of view to support Ukrainians who are fleeing to neighbouring countries or within Ukraine. We are involved in all of that. I assure the Deputy that my focus continues to be on exploring ways in which a ceasefire could be negotiated and agreed, and the conditions under which that would be possible.
We have to do so in a way that keeps Ukraine at the centre of all those discussions. It must be a case of nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.
That is all the people of Ukraine ask and that is the approach we take. When I was in Kyiv, I spent at least an hour talking to two of the most senior negotiators for the Ukrainian President, who have negotiated and continue to negotiate with their Russian counterparts to explore those opportunities.
I agree that diplomacy is the only way. Ultimately, this war will be brought to an end because of the failure, as we have seen, of the Russian military, which was made out to be a great fighting force. Due to the heroism of the Ukrainian forces, it certainly is not having its own way. It is hard to see how and when Russia will meet its military aims. In the meantime, unfortunately, we are seeing civilians being butchered and cities being destroyed.
What role does the Minister see for a militarily non-aligned country such as Ireland in trying to push forward a peaceful solution? I absolutely agree that it is right and proper for us to call out what is an illegal invasion, but the fact is we are militarily non-aligned. There has to be a role for countries such as Ireland in developing a peaceful solution.
I welcome the Minister's visit to Kyiv. However, it is notable that we are one of a few countries that have not re-established its embassy there. Doing so would show solidarity with the Ukrainian people in these horrible times. Reopening our embassy would be a small but very meaningful way to show we extend our solidarity to them.
First, it is important for us not be naive in terms of our own potential influence. However, we will continue to offer Ireland as a country that wants to explore compromise and solutions. We will continue to keep talking, as is happening at Security Council level and elsewhere.
I plan to reopen our embassy in Kyiv. It is a step-by-step process because we have to manage the security consequences of doing so. It should not be forgotten that I opened the embassy only last August. That thriving European city has, unfortunately, changed so much since then. Our ambassador is super, very able and anxious to get back to Kyiv. I am anxious to reopen the embassy there and we will do so in a step-by-step process. We are already moving back to Warsaw in Poland as the first step in that direction. When we have the security issues assessed and resolved to my satisfaction, we will move to reopening the embassy in Kyiv. I hope to be able to do that as soon as is practically possible.