Dáil Éireann - Volume 544 - 22 November, 2001

Written Answers. - Foreign Conflicts.

[1250] 50. Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the meeting of the Security Council of the United Nations with the political committee on 9 November 2001; and if the Government proposed an initiative which would push the peace process forward. [29252/01]

53. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the most recent developments in relation to the conflict in the Congo; and the prospects for peace in the Great Lakes area. [29255/01]

96. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which neighbouring countries are interfering in the internal affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; if he will endeavour to bring positive influence on the situation through mobilisation of international opinion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29429/01]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): I propose to take Questions Nos. 50, 53 and 96 together.

On 9 November, the UN Security Council met with the political committee of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement to examine how the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC, can be further progressed. The political committee includes representatives of the Governments of the DRC, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia and three rebel groups in the DRC. Burundi was also represented. Following the meeting, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1376 of 2001, which builds on previous Security Council resolutions and charts a way forward for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the Congo, and for the disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, resettlement or reintegration of the negative forces operating in eastern Congo.

The resolution acknowledges the progress made so far in implementing the Lusaka agreement, including the fact that the ceasefire is generally holding, despite some infringements, and the fact that some foreign forces have withdrawn from the DRC, including all Namibian troops. The resolution states the Council's support for the launching of phase III of the deployment of MONUC, the UN mission in the DRC. MONUC's task during phase III will be to assist in the voluntary disarmament of negative forces, including perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and Burundian rebels, and in the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the Congo. To this end the active co-operation of all parties will be required and the resolution sets out the steps necessary, including the establishment of a direct, confidence-building dialogue between the Governments of the DRC and Rwanda.

The resolution also expresses the Council's support for the inter-Congolese dialogue and for the facilitator of the dialogue, former Botswanan President Masire. This dialogue is intended to [1251] lead to representative governance and democratic elections in the DRC. As a concrete demonstration of our support for the dialogue, Ireland earlier this year contributed £100,000 to the office of the facilitator.

The humanitarian and human rights situation in the DRC remains a cause of particular concern to Ireland and other Security Council members, and we have consistently called on the parties to refrain from human rights violations and to respect the provisions of international humanitarian law. This year Ireland has contributed £750,000 in humanitarian aid to the DRC.

The recently published addendum to the panel of experts report on the exploitation of the natural resources and other forms of wealth of the DRC provides evidence of the ongoing exploitation by all sides in the conflict of the DRC's human and natural resources to finance their war efforts. While the exploitation of the DRC's resources did not cause the war, the mining of minerals such as coltan, gold, copper, cobalt and diamonds by both states and rebel groups has contributed to its continuation. The addendum will be discussed by the UN Security Council in the coming weeks.

The Government continues to strongly support the implementation of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement which provides a framework for a negotiated settlement which is fair to all parties, which respects the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of the DRC, which upholds democratic principles and human rights, and which takes account of the security interests of the DRC and all other countries of the region. Within that framework, Ireland has laid particular emphasis on the holding of the inter-Congolese dialogue and on the need to address human rights abuses and the humanitarian suffering of the people of the DRC, particularly refugees and internally displaced people. We have also called on all foreign forces to withdraw from the DRC in accordance with Security Council resolutions, while recognising the need for the security concerns of neighbouring states to be addressed. Ireland played an active role in the drafting of the three Security Council resolutions on the situation in the DRC adopted since we took our seat in January, and we have sought to ensure that the DRC remains high on the Council's list of priorities.

While not underestimating the challenges that lie ahead, the Government is confident that with the support of the international community and the full co-operation of all parties involved in the conflict in the DRC with the MONUC mission, peace can finally be achieved in the DRC and the wider Great Lakes region.