asked the Minister for External Affairs if he will endeavour to get action at the United Nations to prevent a supply of arms to the Federal authorities in Nigeria or to the break-away State of Biafra.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Nigerian Arms Supply.
As the Deputy is aware the Security Council is the only organ of the United Nations which has the right under the Charter to authorise the use of force to carry out his suggestion to prevent the supply of arms, and any one of the five permanent members of the Security Council can veto such a proposal. The Deputy is also aware, I am sure, that amongst the European and Afro-Asian countries supplying arms are permanent members of the Security Council.
I see no prospect of the Deputy's suggestion being adopted by the Security Council and even if it were allowed to go through without a veto, I am convinced it could not be made effective against surreptitious shipments of arms. In all the circumstances, the only hope I see for bringing about stable peace and the delivery of food and medicine in sufficient quantity to succour the most helpless in the wartorn areas of this tragic conflict is the re-opening of negotiations between the Federal Government and the break-away forces. We shall continue to do our best to promote the opening of such negotiations as speedily as possible.
What in fact has the Minister done to try to open up these negotiations?
I have answered so many questions on that——
Do not be cross. I am asking a civil question.
I am not cross; not in the slightest bit cross. Long before the war started we tried to advise the parties concerned that the difficulties that were arising should be settled by peaceful negotiations and, since the war started, we have done our best to prevail upon them to carry on negotiations for a stable peace.
Can the Minister say whether the Government considered an individual approach to the British Government who are supplying arms to Nigeria, and to the French Government who are supplying arms to Biafra?
As the Deputy must know, there are more countries than Britain and France supplying arms. I do not suppose that the Deputy wants it to be assumed from his question that Russia is to be left out. She is supplying 75 per cent of the arms, we hear, and all the aeroplanes to the Lagos forces. In addition to these three, there are many other people who have a finger in the pie. There are at least two apartheid countries in Africa itself which have been active and there is a Far Eastern country which also has its finger in the pie.
Is not the heart of the problem of the acute suffering the indiscriminate bombing arising from the fact that the Federal Government are employing mercenary pilots from outside Nigeria over which they have no effective control? Does the Minister think that any public opinion could be brought to bear on them not to import mercenaries into this tragic conflict that is proceeding?
I think I told Deputy Dillon, in answer to a supplementary last week or the week before, that we were very concerned with the civilian casualties that were being caused by the bombing planes. It was well known that at the beginning, and until recently, the pilots were not Nigerians. I myself pressed personally on several occasions that the employment of foreign pilots should be stopped. I am given to understand by the Nigerian Government that for the last couple of months there are no foreign pilots employed.
Does the Minister believe that?
In view of the fact that the Russian and the British Governments, on the one hand, and the French, on the other, appear to be the three countries principally involved in supplying arms to both sides, does the Minister not think that a direct approach to these Governments would have some effect?
There are more than these three involved.
They are the three principal ones.
There are more than three involved. There are at least three European countries supplying arms to one side or the other and two apartheid African countries. There is an Asian country as well. It would be very difficult to get agreement between them, even if it were confined to these three. The real nub of the problem is whether the Federal Government and the break-away force will come together and recognise that it is in the interest of the Nigerian people, East and West, and of the peoples of Africa as a whole that African problems should be settled on the basis of peaceful negotiations.
I am calling Question No. 2. We cannot have any further supplementaries on Question No. 1. I have allowed ten supplementaries.
It is a very important subject.
Other questions are also important. If the Deputy has a final supplementary to put we will listen to him.
Could the Minister say whether there is an improvement in the delivery of foodstuffs, medicines and drugs to Biafra in recent weeks?
Yes, there has been an improvement.