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I have reported to the House on a number of occasions on developments in Kosovo, most recently in my statement on 15 October. I outlined then the objectives of the international community which are: to bring an end to hostilities, with a withdrawal of Serb forces and a lasting ceasefire; to get talks aimed at a political solution under way; and to provide urgently required humanitarian assistance to the displaced and in particular shelterless Albanian population. Clearly these objectives are interlinked. The humanitarian crisis can only be addressed adequately when the ceasefire is secure.
At the time of my statement the agreement between American Ambassador Holbrooke and President Milosevic had just been reached. The terms of that agreement were focused on securing immediate compliance with Security Council Resolutions 1160 and 1199. In addition, however, the agreement spelt out a series of measures to restore normality to Kosovo through political measures, the holding of elections and the restoration of and respect for the human rights of all citizens of Kosovo.
The parties must now urgently start negotiations on a political solution and the future status of Kosovo. President Milosevic must stand by his agreement with Ambassador Holbrooke, and the Kosovo Albanian leadership must engage in serious dialogue without preconditions and with the widest possible representation in its negotiating team. For its part the EU will remain actively involved in supporting the negotiating process, notably through the activity of its special envoy. These points were emphasised by the General Affairs Council at its meeting on 26 October.
The Holbrooke-Milosevic agreement and the Security Council resolutions demand that the parties to the conflict assume their responsibility to carry out all the demands made of them by the international community. A key element has also been entrusted to the OSCE, which has been asked to establish a large verification mission on the ground in Kosovo. The initial step to establish this mission was taken on 16 October through the signing in Belgrade of an agreement by the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE and the Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Another agreement providing for the establishment of an air verification mission over Kosovo, complementing the OSCE verification mission on the ground, was signed by the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and the Yugoslav Chief of General Staff in Belgrade on 15 October. Subsequent to this, the United Nations Security Council on 24 September, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, adopted a further Resolution, No. 1203, which calls on the parties to ensure that the personnel of the Kosovo verification mission are not subject to the threat or use of force or interference of any kind. Resolution 1203 affirms that, in the event of an emergency, action may be needed to ensure the safety and freedom of movement of verification mission personnel.
The OSCE in Vienna is now urgently addressing the arrangements which need to be put in place to establish the Kosovo verification mission. For the OSCE this is an undertaking of unprecedented size and complexity. The issues which it is addressing range from finance to structure, organisation and the nature of personnel requirements. The OSCE has established a special planning unit to address these issues and Irish personnel are contributing to the work of this unit.
We have indicated to our EU partners and to the OSCE our readiness in principle to contribute to the verification mission. The precise size and composition of our contribution will depend on the needs of the mission, which are currently being identified by the OSCE, in addition to the availability of resources. It is likely at this stage that the OSCE may adopt a phased approach to the build-up of the mission, and, if that is the case, our approach would be similar. I expect that the priority requirement in the first instance would be military expertise. As protection of human rights and democratisation are key components of the mission's overall task, these aspects also need to be intensively addressed at the earliest possible moment.
Security of personnel in the Kosovo verification mission is a matter of paramount concern. This is also the view of my EU colleagues at the General Affairs Council. I assure the House that I and my colleagues in Government will take this aspect fully into account when we come to make decisions about Irish participation. As part of our planning process, I have instructed Ireland's Ambassador to the OSCE to travel as soon as possible to Kosovo as head of an Irish technical mission to establish at first-hand the requirements, conditions and safety aspects involved. Pending the establishment of the verification mission, monitoring is continuing through the Kosovo diplomatic observer mission and the European Union monitoring mission. In due course the former will be absorbed into the verification mission while the latter will maintain its separate identity. Ireland will have a presence in the European Union monitoring mission and is providing extra resources to replace personnel diverted into Kosovo from elsewhere in the region.
The agreement between Ambassador Holbrooke and President Milosevic came about only as a result of the exercise of maximum pressure by NATO on Belgrade. While the question of air strikes by NATO was a matter for that organisation, EU Ministers were conscious of the role that a credible threat could play in reaching the recent agreement. As I made clear to the House in my statement on 15 October, I regretted that it was only the threat of force rather than the power of dialogue which finally brought about the agreement. Since then, Resolution 1203 welcomed the signing of the agreement on an air verification mission over Kosovo by NATO and FRY. The General Affairs Council of 26 October expressed its support for the air verification mission and said it would welcome the participation of Russia and other non-NATO countries in it.
The humanitarian dimension remains the single most immediate priority in Kosovo. For that reason it was also central to our discussions at the EU Council. The EU Presidency has prepared an action plan for the return of refugees and displaced persons which pays particular attention to the needs of those most in need of assistance against the onset of winter. Ireland has already allocated £200,000 for humanitarian assistance: £50,000 to the International Federation of the Red Cross for refugees in Albania and £150,000 to the International Committee of the Red Cross for its relief effort in Kosovo, which will be spent on food, clothing shelter and health care for the most vulnerable. The Government will consider further assistance as more information on needs emerges.
The European Commission, through the European Community Humanitarian Office, has announced aid totalling 18.5 million ecu. Overall humanitarian assistance of the EC and its member states for 1998 will total about 44 million ecu. I assure the House of the Government's determination to do everything possible to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo and to bring about a just settlement. I will continue to keep the House informed of developments.