Written answers

Thursday, 6 October 2005

Department of Foreign Affairs

Humanitarian Situations

5:00 pm

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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Question 86: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the support being given to the African Union mission in the Darfur region of Sudan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26908/05]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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The Government fully supports the African Union's crucial role in resolving the ongoing political, security and humanitarian crisis in Darfur, including the very valuable work of its observer mission, AMIS, in addressing the security situation. Where AMIS has been deployed in Darfur a marked reduction in violence has followed. In April, the AU decided to expand AMIS from 3,200 to more than 7,700 personnel by the end of September, and approximately 5,500 are deployed. However, owing to serious logistical and management constraints, full deployment of the additional military personnel will not be completed until 22 October and deployment of two additional civilian police contingents has been postponed.

The fact that in May 2005 US$300 million was pledged at a donors' conference in Addis Ababa to assist with the planned expansion of AMIS demonstrates the international community's confidence in the African Union's efforts to try and resolve the Darfur conflict. However, despite these pledges a funding gap of €140 million exists and the AU has appealed urgently for additional support.

The General Affairs and External Relations Council agreed on 23 May that the EU should lend all possible support to AMIS's military, police and civilian efforts to address the crisis in Darfur and a specific package of assistance, focusing on logistical and planning support, was outlined by high representative Solana at the subsequent donors' conference in Addis Ababa. Ireland was also represented at the Addis Ababa meeting and pledged to provide additional financial support as part of the overall EU package. When I met UN Secretary General Annan in New York on 2 June I informed him that Ireland would contribute an additional €1 million to support the expanded AMIS operation. This funding is additional to €500,000 for the humanitarian and human rights elements of AMIS which Ireland provided last year. The Government has also made available an officer from the Permanent Defence Forces, Lieutenant Colonel, to serve as a logistics planner in supporting the expansion of AMIS. An Army officer served as an EU observer with the AMIS mission up to June 2005.

At the June General Affairs and External Relations Council, Ministers approved a joint action by the European Union providing civilian and military support to AMIS in such areas as police, planning, logistics, strategic and tactical airlift, training and equipment. Ministers also approved the appointment of Mr. PekkaHaavisto, a former Minister from Finland, as EU special representative for Sudan. A total of €2.12 million has been allocated from the 2005 EU budget for this joint action. The EU will also provide €92 million from the Africa Peace Facility, APF, for AMIS and is considering an AU request for a further €70 million.

In addition to the EU's funding, much of the equipment and airlifting required by the AU is being provided and funded bilaterally by EU partners. NATO is also providing logistical support to AMIS. Ireland's support to AMIS is additional to the €15 million pledged for Sudan over the period 2005 to 2007, €8 million of which has already been committed. This funding is being used to meet immediate needs such as food security, return of the displaced and basic education and will also begin to address the country's long-term development needs.

I met with the acting Foreign Minister of Sudan, Dr. Mustafa Osman Ismail, in New York on 19 September 2005. I stressed the importance which Ireland attaches to resolving the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, the need for improvement of the security situation there and speedy conclusion of the political negotiations under way in Abuja between the Government and the rebels. Minister Ismail gave an optimistic assessment of the humanitarian situation in Darfur and the general political and security situation in Sudan, including the Abuja talks.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Question 87: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in Liberia; the amount of humanitarian assistance being given by the Government to this country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26893/05]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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While Liberia has made remarkable progress since the comprehensive peace agreement of August 2003, it still faces the major challenges of a successful return to democracy and sustaining the peace process. Parliamentary and presidential elections are scheduled for 11 October 2005. These elections will mark the return of a constitutional democracy to Liberia after 14 years of civil war. The EU is fielding an election observation mission, with Irish participation. More than 1.35 million voters have been registered.

Following a decision on 28 September by the Liberian Supreme Court to allow three independent presidential candidates, previously barred by the National Election Commission, to stand in the polls, there were fears that the election date may be postponed. However it has since been confirmed that the elections will go ahead as planned on 11 October following the withdrawal of the three candidates. This allows compliance with the comprehensive peace agreement which requires the holding of elections in October 2005 and transfer of power to the newly elected Government in January 2006.

The security situation in Liberia is stable. This owes much to the United Nations mission in Liberia, which was established on 19 September 2003 by UN Security Council Resolution 1509. The Irish contingent comprises a motorised infantry battalion of some 410 personnel, together with six additional personnel deployed at force headquarters. Our personnel have been widely commended for the professionalism of their work.

In addition to our peacekeeping role, earlier this year Ireland established a development co-operation office in Freetown, Sierra Leone, which is also responsible for the delivery of humanitarian and development support to Liberia. At the international donor conference on Liberia in February 2004, Ireland pledged €5 million from 2004 to 2006 towards the recovery and reconstruction needs of Liberia. This pledge has already been met. Ireland has contributed €1 million to the disarmament, demobilisation, rehabilitation and reintegration programme in Liberia. This is particularly important as conditions for a lasting peace remain fragile so long as the reintegration of ex-combatants and retirement of ex-soldiers has not been completed.

On 9 September 2005, Liberia's national transitional Government, NTGL, signed a far-reaching plan to combat corruption, called the governance and economic management assistance programme, GEMAP, which had been agreed with the donor community. Effective implementation of this programme would greatly contribute to Liberia's national recovery efforts and help it meet the requirements for lifting of Security Council sanctions regarding the export of timber and diamonds.

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