Written Answers. - Foreign Conflicts.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

46 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on recent initiatives at the UN Security Council to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute; the Government's position on sending international observers to the occupied territories; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3833/02]

At the beginning of this year the Security Council decided to request regular briefings from the secretariat on the situation in the Middle East. In December 2001, a draft resolution was submitted to the council. Ireland and 11 other members of the council voted in favour of the resolution, but it failed to be adopted due to the veto exercised by the United States. The failure of this resolution, which was moderate and balanced in tone, was a matter of regret to us. A resolution in identical terms was introduced in the General Assembly of the United Nations on 18 December. Ireland once again voted in favour of the resolution and it was passed by a large majority.

It is usual in the Security Council that initiatives on the Palestinian question are undertaken by the representatives of the non-aligned movement in the council in consultation with the Palestinian observer mission and we would expect any new initiative to originate in that way. Ireland would play a full part in seeking agreement in the council as we have done on previous occasions when the matter has been raised.

The Government considers that international observers could play a useful role in the occupied territories and would support their deployment. As was stated in the declaration of the European Council at Laeken, "The European Union remains convinced that setting up a third-party monitoring mechanism would serve the interests of both parties. It is prepared to play an active role in such a mechanism." However, I would point out that such a deployment can only be made with the consent of the parties concerned. This consent is not forthcoming from the Israeli Government.

There is already a small international presence in the occupied territories, the Transitional Inter national Presence in Hebron, TIPH, which has helped to restrain acts of violence through low key monitoring and reporting activity. A similar presence throughout the occupied territories could only have a positive effect.