Dáil Éireann - Volume 471 - 13 November, 1996

Written Answers. - Conditions in Iraq.

82. Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs whether the Government's attention has been drawn to the fact that 4,500 children die each month in Iraq as a result of malnutrition and disease; the Government's and the EU's response to the request for $39.9 million in aid for Iraq made by the UN in September 1996; and the circumstances under which the Irish Government and each of the EU member states, excluding France and the Netherlands, has seen fit to ignore this request. [21278/96]

83. Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps, if any, taken by the EU as a result of the urgent meeting called by the European Community Humanitarian Office in Brussels on 30 September 1996 to alleviate the humanitarian situation facing the Kurdish population of northern Iraq. [21279/96]

84. Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the assessment of the situation in northern Iraq made by the European Commission representative and the EU representative to Ankara during their mission in the region; and whether, if at all, the Government as EU President intends to act on that assessment. [21280/96]

Tanáiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): I propose to take Questions Nos. 82, 83 and 84 together.

The European Community Humanitarian Office — ECHO — has provided more than 9.5 [1051] million ECU in humanitarian relief to Iraq during 1996. As a follow-up to the meeting with member states on 30 September. ECHO has also requested both its representatives to return to their posts in northern Iraq. The representatives are currently completing an assessment of the humanitarian situation there and preparations are in hand for a new aid package of 20 million ECU for Iraq. This assistance will be channelled through the UN agencies, the Red Cross and non-governmental organisations. The approval of the EU member states for this aid package will shortly be sought by ECHO. At the ECHO meeting on 8 October, Ireland, along with other member states, encouraged ECHO to ensure a balance between aid to the north and the rest of Iraq.

As Presidency, Ireland, in consultation with the other EU member states, will take every appropriate step to ensure the humanitarian needs of the people of Iraq continue to be addressed. Since 1992 the Irish Government has disbursed over IR£200,000 on humanitarian assistance to UNICEF for women and children in central and southern Iraq. The Government is actively considering a new allocation in response to the UN-inter-agency consolidated appeal which was launched in September. Last month the Government disbursed a grant of IR£35,000 to assist the efforts of the Iranian Red Crescent to bring relief to the refugees from northern Iraq.

Furthermore, Ireland requested the Presidency representative in Ankara, the Netherland Embassy, along with a representative of the European Commission, to undertake an assessment mission into northern Iraq from 19-21 September 1996. During their visit, meetings were held with the duty officer commanding the UN Guards, representatives of 18 NGOs in northern Iraq and Mr. Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP. The assessment of the Presidency and Commission representatives was that the situation in the area was generally calm. Shops were open and business seemed to have resumed as normal.

As I indicated in my reply to the Deputy's Question No. 9 of 2 October 1996 the EU representatives were also given assurances by Mr. Barzani that local aid workers employed by organisations from the EU would be afforded adequate protection in the areas under the control of the KDP. The Presidency's representative in Ankara have also made a number of approaches to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to urge the Turkish authorities to facilitate the activities of NGOs operating in Iraq, so that they can carry out their work efficiently and in accordance with their mandate. The EU representatives also stressed to the Turkish authorities the Union's support for the valuable work performed by these NGOs, and reiterated that the NGOs operated in accordance with the rights and obligations of international humanitarian law.