Written Answers. - Killings in Algeria.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

18 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Algeria. [8244/98]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

85 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the measures, if any, that can be taken by the EU to bring about a resolution of the strife in Algeria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8402/98]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 85 together.

The situation in Algeria continues to give rise to very serious concern. Although the death rate has fallen from the very high level of January during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan when there were a number of mass killings security remains bad. In recent days there have been reports of renewed fighting between the security forces and Islamist insurgents.

What has been happening is a matter of international concern and it cannot be treated just as an internal affair. I have taken every possible opportunity to convey my views to the Algerian authorities, most notably during my visit to the country in December.

Our concern is shared by our EU partners. A ministerial troika from the European Union visited Algiers on 19 and 20 January. However, it is clear that Algerian sensitivity over international involvement remains strong and the immediate opportunities for co-operation limited. Although Algeria has refused to accept offers of humanitarian assistance, the Union has agreed that the offer of humanitarian assistance will remain on the table.

With our EU partners, we have been urging Algeria to accept a visit by UN special rapporteurs. Its refusal to do so is very disappointing. I am aware that the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, the French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, and Vice-President Manuel Marin of the European Commission have all reiterated the point that there is no evidence linking the Algerian Government to the massacres. However, as long as Algeria does not allow for more openness suspicions will remain. An early visit by UN special rapporteurs would be especially helpful in dispelling these doubts and we will continue to press the Algerian Government to accede to such a visit.

While the recent visit to Algeria by members of the European Parliament helped to strengthen democratic institutions and to undermine those who seek political change through violence, greater transparency on the part of the Algerian Government and unhindered access for international organisations, NGOs and the media would also further strengthen democratic institutions. We will persevere in the policy which we are pursuing — pressure on Algeria to ensure that respect for human rights is achieved.