Written Answers. - Nicaraguan Elections.

361.

asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received the report of the Irish Inter-Party Parliamentary Delegation which observed the recent elections in Nicaragua; if the Government accept the recommendations made by the delegation; if so, the measures he is taking to have them implemented and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I have received a copy of the report of the Irish Inter-Parliamentary Delegation which observed the recent elections in Nicaragua and have read it with considerable interest. The recommendations made by the delegation have been noted and I would like to make the following observations on each recommendation in turn.

I consider that the electoral process in Nicaragua constituted a positive development and a step forward in the consolidation of democracy in that country, and hope that it will prepare the way for full national reconciliation.

Ireland as well as its partners of the European Community have consistently expressed their support for the Contadora process as the best opportunity to achieve a political solution to the crisis in Central America. This support was most recently expressed at the European Council in Dublin on 3-4 December 1984. There is no provision for countries to seek observer status with the Contadora Group as suggested in the report of the delegation. The particular strength of the Contadora Group in seeking to find a solution to the problems of Central America lies in the facts that the Contadora Group consists of close neighbours of the Central American countries and that it can conduct its deliberations on a restricted basis.

The position regarding the establishment of formal diplomatic relations with other countries, including Nicaragua, is kept under continuous review by my Department. Unfortunately due to limited financial and personnel resources, the Government are not in a position to propose the establishment of such relations with Nicaragua at this time. It may be relevant to point out that formal diplomatic relations are maintained by this country with only a minority of countries, some 60 out of more than 150 countries. The absence of formal diplomatic relations between Ireland and Nicaragua does not in any way affect recognition by us of the Government of Nicaragua as the legitimate Government of that State nor does it constitute any barrier to continuing friendly contacts between Ireland and Nicaragua. Consular relations are of a different order to diplomatic relations and belong to the category of services to citizens rather than of relations between States.

I note the recommendation of the delegation on contacts and exchanges between Ireland and Nicaragua is not addressed to the Government. There is, of course, no barrier to contacts and exchanges between the two countries.

The delegation recommended that the Government consider requests for aid to Nicaragua. The Government are prepared to provide emergency and development assistance to Nicaragua — as they have in the past — in cases where a real need for such aid exists and where our normal criteria for the provision of such aid are satisfied. For a number of reasons we do not normally provide emergency food aid and our emergency relief funds are generally channelled through nongovernmental organisations involved in the country concerned. We have provided emergency assistance in this way to Nicaragua in the past and we shall be prepared to do so again in the future although, as far as this year is concerned, you will appreciate that the unprecedented famine in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa is likely to absorb a very considerable proportion of our emergency relief budget.

As far as development aid is concerned, we provided a total of £31,000 in 1984 for projects implemented by nongovernmental organisations in Nicaragua. Since Nicaragua is not one of our `priority' countries for bilateral aid, we could not provide assistance other than through NGOs although the Agency for Personal Service Overseas, which operates under the aegis of my Department, could provide assistance for Irish personnel to work on development projects in Nicaragua if so requested.

Regarding the question of Nicaragua seeking finance from bodies such as the World Bank and the IMF, the Government fully support the application of equitable treatment to Nicaragua by international financial institutions.

The Government are opposed to outside interference in Central American countries, as in all other countries, and are concerned about the activities of groups which attempt to de-stabilise the Nicaraguan government. All parties involved in the Central American Situation are aware of the Government's position, and also that of the Ten member states of the European Community, which is that the problems of the region cannot be solved by armed force, but only by a political solution springing from the region itself and respecting the principles of non-interference and inviolability of frontiers. In this connection, as stated above, the Ten have consistently expressed their support for the Contadora process. The position of the Ten on the subject was reaffirmed by the European Council on 3-4 December 1984.