Dáil Éireann - Volume 663 - 09 October, 2008
Written Answers. - Foreign Conflicts.
Deputy Joanna Tuffy Deputy Joanna Tuffy
Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in Georgia and in particular in those regions seeking autonomy; the assistance he and the European Union was, and is, able to offer in an effort to mediate in this crisis; and, if such mediation was offered; his views on whether such work may be useful in the future should similar events arise and the EU be in position to offer mediation then also. [34183/08]
Deputy Damien English Deputy Damien English
Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the financial assistance Ireland has provided and will provide in order to assist in rebuilding the Georgian economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34086/08]
Deputy Damien English Deputy Damien English
Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Ireland’s contribution to the observer force in Georgia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34085/08]
Deputy Willie Penrose Deputy Willie Penrose
Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the recent discussions which have been held between EU officials and Foreign Ministers and their counterparts in the Russian Federation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34206/08]
Deputy Jack Wall Deputy Jack Wall
Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he, his Department and the European Union generally, following recent developments in various parts of Europe, are in favour of recognition, short of full sovereignty, for autonomous regions. [34203/08]
Deputy Micheál Martin Deputy Micheál Martin
Deputy Micheál Martin: I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 45, 51, 53 and 71 together.
The EU has played a very positive role in promoting conflict resolution in Georgia, working closely with all sides while maintaining a cohesive position on issues of substance relating to the conflict. Lessons from the EU’s involvement in Georgia can certainly be drawn on for the future. The outstanding role played by the Presidency, the common approach adopted by Member States, and the rapid deployment of the EU Monitoring Mission have demonstrated our ability to move quickly and decisively when there is agreement on an objective.
Following the outbreak of the conflict on 7-8 August, when Georgia sent troops into the separatist region of South Ossetia and the Russian Federation responded with overwhelming force, the EU Presidency moved quickly to get all sides to agree to a 6 point cease fire plan on 12 August. The Presidency held an extraordinary European Council on the conflict on 1 September. This endorsed the Presidency’s actions, agreed to suspend talks on a new EU-Russia agreement until Russian forces withdrew to their pre-conflict positions, and confirmed  the EU’s opposition to Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Ireland and the EU have consistently supported Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. We believe that comparisons between the situations in Georgia and in Kosovo are invalid.
On 8 September President Sarkozy secured commitments from Russian President Medvedev on a complete withdrawal of Russian forces outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia within 10 days of an EU Monitoring Mission being deployed in Georgia. The agreement also indicated that international talks on the status of the two separatist regions would commence on 15 October. Following a decision at the 15 September General Affairs and External Relations Council, the EU Monitoring Mission has commenced duties in Georgia as of 1st October. Ireland has contributed four experienced monitors to the mission.
On 22 September I had the opportunity to discuss the situation in Georgia at some length with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov when he visited Dublin. He confirmed Russia’s positive impression of the EU’s involvement in defusing the crisis and its intention to abide by the agreements it had made with President Sarkozy. Over the past weekend, Russia began dismantling its positions adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The tragic death of eight Russian servicemen and three civilians last Friday in South Ossetia has fortunately not slowed this process. Javier Solana confirmed yesterday his satisfaction with the progress towards final withdrawal of Russian forces from the areas around South Ossetia and Abkhazia. As agreed, this will be followed by the opening of a talks process in Geneva on 15 October under the auspices of the EU, UN and OSCE.
The situation in Georgia has stabilised but remains very tense. There was considerable loss of life and damage to infrastructure during and after the fighting in August. While conditions have improved, 50,000 internally displaced people will require temporary accommodation over the winter and there will be difficulties with the return of approximately 20,000 ethnic Georgians to South Ossetia. Russia is providing assistance to the displaced in its territory and in South Ossetia. Little is needed in Abkhazia. International humanitarian organisations have been working with the Georgian authorities to provide assistance. FM Lavrov told me that the main need now in South Ossetia is reconstruction of damaged properties.
The European Commission and World Bank are organising an international donors’ conference for Georgia on 22 October in Brussels. Ireland has provided over €260,000 in humanitarian assistance since the onset of the conflict, focusing on meeting the most urgent needs. Longer-term assistance is currently under consideration.
Dáil Éireann 663 Written Answers. Foreign Conflicts.