Written Answers. - Human Rights Abuses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

91 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he has been in contact with the people of Eritrea; whether he can influence the means whereby human rights can be protected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22310/98]

The Government and our EU partners have been closely monitoring the situation in Eritrea. We are particularly concerned about the impact of the current border dispute between it and Ethiopia. The initial border clashes caused several hundred casualties and resulted in the displacement of local populations. There are also reports of human rights abuses by both countries against people of neighbouring origin. Humanitarian needs on both sides have been met by a combination of local community resources, national, church, NGO and government institutions with international support.

As part of its continuing efforts to prevent a resumption of the border conflict the European Union has made a number of demarches to the Governments in Addis Ababa and Asmara. These have urged both parties to find a peaceful solution under the auspices of the OAU. In doing so they pointed out the negative implications and consequences of a re-escalation of the conflict. The EU also raised the question of the overall humanitarian situation and urged both Governments to adhere to international humanitarian law and to accepted human rights standards.

Ireland and our EU partners strongly support the OAU initiative to resolve the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict. We also fully support UN Security Council Resolution 1177 (1998) condemning the use of force in this dispute and the UN Secretary General's call for both sides to exercise restraint and do nothing that would endanger the present de facto cease-fire. At the same time the Union is continuing its efforts in support of full respect for human rights and the rule of law throughout Eritrea.