Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Question 115: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will support the application of economic sanctions to Israel in order to persuade it to give up its nuclear weapons and bring about a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East. [7610/12]
Israel has never officially declared itself to possess nuclear weapons. It is one of just three states not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is acknowledged as a cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament. In both national and EU statements, and through our participation in the New Agenda Coalition, Ireland has repeatedly called on all three states not party to the NPT to accede to the Treaty as non-nuclear weapons states and to conclude a full scope safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Ireland regards the establishment of a Middle East Zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems as a particularly important objective. I am very pleased that at the 2010 NPT Review Conference, Ireland brokered agreement on a text which emphasised the importance of establishing such a zone and which set out a number of practical steps towards achieving this, including the convening of a conference in 2012. We are hopeful that all countries in the region, including Israel and Iran, will participate in the Conference and in the process going forward.
Ireland is rightly regarded as having a long and very close association with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and as being a very active proponent of complete nuclear disarmament. The Deputy can be assured that full implementation of the NPT remains a key foreign policy objective for the Government as we enter the 2015 NPT review cycle, which begins in Vienna in late April.
I am repeatedly urged to consider sanctions against Israel for various reasons. I have made clear that, like all previous Irish Governments, the Government does not support such sanctions, and further that there would be no possibility whatever of achieving an EU consensus in favour of such sanctions.
Question 116: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he shares the view of the US director of national intelligence, as the director reported to the US Congress on 31 January, that Iran has not got an active nuclear weapons programme. [7611/12]
The latest report of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran, issued on 8 November, concluded that there are strong grounds for serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme and concluded that information available indicated that Iran had carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. The report is based on information drawn from a wide variety of sources and deemed by the IAEA to be "consistent in terms of technical content, individuals and organizations involved, and time frames". The IAEA is, of course, the internationally recognised watchdog on this issue, with unrivalled technical expertise and a record of absolute impartiality and independence. The Government, together with the US, EU and other international partners such as China and Russia, is extremely concerned about the findings of this report. T he US Director of National Intelligence on 31 January stated that "Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons, making the central issue its political will to do so."
Given the lack of any indication from Iran that it is as yet ready to comprehensively address these concerns, the international community continues to pursue a twin-track approach of sanctions and dialogue. In his remarks on 31 January, the US Director of National Intelligence also noted that Iran's "cost-benefit" approach to nuclear decision-making provides the international community with opportunities to influence Tehran. The EU, US and Canada, with the support of other international partners, have introduced further restrictive measures against Iran following the IAEA report in the hope that these will bring the Iranian authorities back to the negotiating table soon to address comprehensively the widespread international concerns, as set out in numerous UN Security Council and IAEA Resolutions, regarding possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme. The international community, including Ireland, the EU and the US, is united in the view that sanctions must be maintained until Iran does so.
Question 117: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there are any circumstances in which Ireland would support military action against Iran because of its nuclear activities. [7612/12]
Question 118: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there are any circumstances in which Ireland would grant the US or other NATO countries the use of Shannon Airport to facilitate military action against Iran because of its nuclear activities. [7613/12]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 118 together.
It is the firm conviction of this Government, and its EU partners, that the grave and valid concerns about Iran's nuclear programme must be resolved through diplomatic negotiations alone and by no other means.
The E3+3, comprising Germany, France and the UK together with the US, Russia and China, represents the international community in negotiations with Iran. I fully support the efforts of the EU's High Representative Catherine Ashton on behalf of the E3+3 and it is deeply regrettable that Iran's authorities have yet to respond to her letter of October 2011 calling for a resumption of talks.
In response to the failure on the part of Iran to address the international community's concerns following the publication of the International Atomic Energy Agency's latest report on the Iran nuclear issue on 8 November 2011, the EU has implemented two further rounds of sanctions against Iran which were approved by the Foreign Affairs Council at its meetings on 1 December and 23 January. The US, UK and Canada have also implemented further tough bilateral sanctions against Iran, in response to the IAEA report. The aim of all these measures is to persuade Iran to return to the negotiating table so that the issues raised in the IAEA report and in repeated UN Security Council and IAEA Resolutions can be addressed.
It is the earnest hope of this Government, as well as its EU, US and international partners, that productive negotiations with Iran will restart soon to address comprehensively all the many serious issues relating to its nuclear programme, including its possible military dimensions.