Written Answers. - Foreign Conflicts.

Dan Boyle

Question:

124 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the way in which his Department will respond subsequent to a recent public meeting held in Cork, to a call on the Government to ensure that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is given priority on its foreign affairs agenda, to use its significant influence with the Governments of Uganda and Rwanda, and other African countries, to insist that they engage positively with negotiations and efforts to resolve the ongoing conflict in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to ensure that this country remains on the international agenda, particularly through the Presidency of Ireland of the European Union in 2004. [19293/03]

I conveyed the deep concern of the Government about the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on a number of occasions recently. I assure the Deputy that a lasting resolution to the conflict in that country will continue to be an important aim of the Government, particularly during Ireland's Presidency of the EU next year. The situation in Bunia has stabilised following the start of the EU-led Operation Artemis, to which Ireland will contribute four Army officers based at operational and force headquarters. I welcome the news that agreement has been reached in Kinshasa on an interim Government to lead the country into elections. I am extremely concerned, however, at the movement of rebel troops in the north Kivu area in the east of the country, particularly as it has the potential to further destabilise the area.

Ireland has always sought to highlight the grave problems in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at international fora. During our membership of the UN Security Council, we took part in Security Council missions to the Great Lakes region in 2001 and to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2002. We were strong advocates of the inter-Congolese dialogue, to which we contributed €127,000. We have used bilateral meetings with southern African countries to discuss ways in which regional and international pressure can be used to push for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As a development partner, we have conveyed to the Ugandan Government on a number of occasions our concern at its involvement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and our view that full implementation of the Lusaka Agreement by all parties is the most viable solution to the conflict. We have also made our views known to the Governments of Rwanda and other African countries that have been involved in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The EU has also been active on the issue of peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Last week, the Presidency issued a strong declaration on the situation in the east of the country. It called on the rebel RCD group to desist from troop movements in the north Kivu area and asked the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda to refrain from any action which may destabilise the peace process. The EU has recently demarched the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda about the situation in the Ituri region, expressing its grave concern at human rights violations being perpetrated by armed groups there and calling on them to use their influence with the armed groups to reduce tensions in the area.
The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is an ongoing item on the agenda of the UN Security Council and will continue to be for some time to come. During its Presidency of the EU in 2004 and in the lead up to it, Ireland will be active in ensuring that the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains high up on the EU agenda.