I propose to take Questions Nos. 174, 179 and 368 together.
Secretary General Annan's official visit last week took place at the invitation of the Government. It was his first visit to Ireland since 1999 and provided an excellent opportunity for an exchange of views on a range of issues at a critical time for the United Nations.
Many Deputies will have been present in Dublin Castle to hear the Secretary General's address to the National Forum on Europe last Thursday 14 October, which was chiefly on the theme of EU-UN co-operation in crisis management. In his intervention, the Secretary General outlined with force and clarity the importance to the United Nations of strengthened EU capacities, in particular the specialised skills its member states possessed in the military area that other troop contributors may not be able to provide, including its ability to deploy more rapidly in crisis situations.
On Friday, the Secretary General held talks on peacekeeping issues with my colleague, the Minister for Defence, and reviewed troops and met Defence Forces veterans of UN peacekeeping operations. That evening, the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, and I met the Secretary General, Kofi Annan, at the Department of Foreign Affairs. Discussions were very wide ranging and took place in a warm and cordial manner, befitting the close and co-operative relationship that has long existed between Ireland and the Secretariat of the United Nations on matters such as peacekeeping, disarmament, economic and social development and human rights.
The Secretary General was highly appreciative of the particular impetus Ireland has given to European Union co-operation with the United Nations, including in the important area of crisis management and in activity by the European Union to support the multilateral system. I assured the Secretary General that he could rely on Ireland's strong support for his efforts to reform the United Nations and to promote agreement among UN member states on a more effective system of collective security.
We exchanged views on the major review that will take place in 2005 of the implementation of the millennium summit declaration and on the follow up to the report of the Secretary General's high level panel on threats, challenges and change. We discussed the actions that need to be taken to ensure a successful review and to create the political will to establish a platform for a renewed effort to ensure the achievement of the millennium development goals by the target date of 2015.
I assured the Secretary General that the Government fully understood the need for hard decisions to ensure the continued and strengthened capacity of the multilateral system to address common threats and challenges. We agreed that UN member states need to address difficult questions of institutional reform in the UN system, including reform of the Security Council, with a view to enhancing its legitimacy, and thus its effectiveness, by becoming more representative of today's world.
I reviewed with the Secretary General what Ireland has done, and what it wants to see done to stem HIV-AIDS. We discussed preparations for the June 2005 meeting that will assess progress on the declaration of commitment on HIV-AIDS agreed at the UN special session on HIV-AIDS in 2001. The Secretary General paid tribute to Ireland's activity on HIV-AIDS, including the outcome of the Dublin conference earlier this year on HIV-AIDS in eastern Europe and central Asia.
I also discussed with the Secretary General a number of pressing current issues of international peace and security. These included the grave humanitarian and security situation in the Darfur region of the Sudan, preparations for the forthcoming elections in Iraq in the context of the dangerous security situation there, the outstanding UN achievement in assisting the government of Afghanistan with the successful recent national elections as well as prospects for the country in their aftermath; the continued refusal of the authorities in Burma to release Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and to receive the Secretary General's special envoy, the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict including recent Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip, progress, or the lack of it, in the implementation of peace processes in the Great Lakes area of Africa, in the Horn of Africa, and in Western Sahara and the situation in West Papua.
Deputies will understand that I am not in a position to go into detail on our exchanges on these issues. However, the insights that the Secretary General and his team were in a position to offer on these issues were, as always, very instructive and of great value to me and to the Government in formulating policies on a wide range of issues. Secretary General Annan leaves Ireland carrying the Government's best wishes for success in the difficult task of revitalising and strengthening the multilateral system.