Written Answers. - Visit by EU Troika to Burundi.
Mr. R. Burke
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs
if he will arrange for a visit by the EU Troika to Burundi with the utmost urgency in view of the threatened humanitarian catastrophe in the region; and if he will ensure that maximum EU and UN support and protection will be given to the people in the region.
The situation in Burundi has been a matter of ongoing deep concern to the Government and our EU partners. That concern was heightened further by the July military coup which brought Major Pierre Buyoya to power. Meanwhile, the killings have continued. The circumstances of the murder of Archbishop Ruhana on 9 September were a source of particular revulsion. Efforts to avert a further humanitarian crisis in Burundi must continue to focus on the creation of an appropriate framework which will enable a cease-fire to be put in place and meaningful dialogue to be organised without delay. The EU considers such a dialogue essential, bringing together all of Burundi's political forces without exception, in order to negotiate a democratic, institutional consensus ensuring security for all. In its Declaration of 19 August the EU has therefore urged all sides to the conflict in Burundi to refrain from violence and to commit themselves to, and work actively towards, a negotiated and peaceful resolution of the crisis.
A critical role is being played in this process by the regional leaders, the Organisation of African Unity and the former President of Tanzania, Mr. Julius Nyerere. For several months they have been working to establish a process of mediation between the various factions, under Mr. Nyerere's chairmanship. They have taken a strong stand against the Buyoya coup, imposing stiff economic sanctions. One of the conditions for their lifting is the unconditional opening of inclusive negotiations. The European Union has expressed strong support for the regional leaders and Mr. Nyerere in their efforts to bring about a peaceful solution to the Burundian crisis. The EU Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region, Mr. Aldo Ajello, is working actively with them in this regard. Mr. Ajello has been liaising closely with the Irish Presidency in pursuing his work in the region and was in Dublin recently for consultations with myself and with Ms Joan Burton TD, The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs. In addition, the Irish Presidency recently arranged for a series of démarches by the Troika of Heads of Mission in the various regional capitals, including Bujumbura, to underline further the continued concerns of the European Union.
The provisions of Resolution 1072 adopted by the UN Security Council on 30 August have reinforced the very clear message of the EU and other members of the international community to the conflicting parties in Burundi that there must be an early end to all violence and an immediate commencement of dialogue. Resolution 1072 provides for further possible measures, including the imposition of an arms embargo, if national dialogue does not being before 31 October. It also provides for continued contingency planning by UN member states for an international presence and other initiatives to support and help consolidate a cessation of hostilities, as well as to make a rapid humanitarian response in the event of widespread violence or a serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Burundi. From a humanitarian perspective, it is clear that the present situation is already deeply worrying. A small number of UN agencies and NGOs have continued to supply relief aid to vunerable persons and displaced people in exceptionally difficult circumstances. The recent decision by the regional leaders to exempt certain classes of relief items from the sanctions on Burundi has allowed humanitarian agencies to import emergency medical and nutritional supplements for infants and hospital patients. The UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs plan is in place and envisages a mobilisation of humanitarian resources regionally to bring relief aid to Burundians fleeing to neighbouring states from violence.
The European Union continues to fund humanitarian relief by the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO). Last July, ECHO in consultation with member states, approved a further allocation of 36.5 million ECU for Rwandan and Burundian refugees and internally displaced persons. In addition a major food aid programme valued at 110 million ECU in both Rwanda and Burundi is under way. Bilaterally, the Government remain seized of the critical need to continue to support humanitarian activities in Burundi. Over £1 million has been spent this year on a range of actions in Burundi. This has included some funding also for the efforts of Mr. Nyerere. We will continue to play our full part in the contingency planning in case of a further deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the country and my Department is engaged in active consultation with the UN agencies in New York and Geneva and with the European Commission in Brussels.
Ultimately, however, the solution to the situation in Burundi will be political and efforts in that regard are being intensified. In New York this week, where I am attending the UN General Assembly, I met with Mr. Nyerere for discussions on the current situation and on the way forward. I assured Mr. Nyerere of the EU's continued support for his work and that of the regional leaders. There are hopes that a further regional Summit may take place shortly to review the prospects for the commencement of inclusive negotiations. In addition, at the request of the Presidency and our EU partners, Special Envoy Ajello is shortly to carry out an urgent new mission to the region on behalf of the EU. During this round of contacts, he will visit several capitals to assist directly in the regional efforts to commence such a process of negotiations between the various Burundian parties. The United States is also working actively with all parties to the same end. Other options, such as an EU Ministerial Troika to Burundi, as suggested by the Deputy, will be kept under active review. The situation will be assessed further by EU partners following completion of Mr. Ajello's mission.