Written Answers. - Tension in Middle East.

Ray Burke

Ceist:

111 Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the current position in relation to the development of a common foreign policy for the EU in view of the failure of the meeting held in Tralee, County Kerry, to agree a united position on Iraq. [16703/96]

Ray Burke

Ceist:

113 Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government's position in relation to the volatile situation that exists in the Kuwait/Iraq/Syria/Saudi Arabian area. [16705/96]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111 and 113 together. The Government has been deeply concerned at the recent escalation of tension in the Gulf area. It has been working closely with its European partners so that the Union can exercise all its influence in order to ensure that international order and stability is maintained and calm is restored to the region. I am satisfied that we achieved the highest possible degree of cohesion among our partners during our discussions on the crisis in the Gulf at the informal ministerial meeting which was held at Tralee on 7-8 September. From that discussion certain general principles resulted which form the basis for a strong common policy in relation to Iraq. All EU member states are committed to the maintenance of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the states in the region, including Iraq, while continuing to support a Kurdish enclave in Northern Iraq, and the continuation of the no-fly zone, which has played a major role in curbing the excesses of the Iraqi regime. The Union is willing to pursue contacts with the neighbouring countries in the region with a view to de-escalating tensions in Northern Iraq. We also agreed on the need to ensure that steps are taken to relieve the suffering of the Iraqi civilian population, and children in particular, through the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 986 which would allow the sale of Iraqi oil to pay for food and medical supplies.

In terms of practical action the Union, which has been providing substantial humanitarian assistance to the civilian population of Northern Iraq since the Gulf War, has agreed to respond, and is responding, to the present humanitarian plight of the Kurdish population as generously as resources allow. In its capacity as Presidency of the EU, Ireland has instructed the troika of Ambassadors in Ankara to request the Turkish authorities to remove recent administrative changes in respect of Non-Governmental aid agencies working from Turkey into Northern Iraq, so that they can be better placed to help the population affected by the latest hostilities. Also on the instructions of the Irish Presidency, the Presidency's local representative in Ankara and the Commission representative both visited Northern Iraq last week to obtain assurances from Mr. Barzani, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party, regarding the safety of local aid workers employed on EU projects. I am glad to report that these assurances were received.
I believe that these elements, taken together, represent a commendable effort by the European Union to exert a positive and constructive influence on the situation in the Gulf. The common foreign policies of the European Union are developed in accordance with the procedures laid down in the Treaty on European Union and reflect the level of agreement attainable between the member states on the issues under consideration. As current Presidency, Ireland is seeking to ensure that the CFSP functions as effectively as possible on the basis of the existing Treaty provisions and that the Union makes the maximum possible contribution to the resolution of international issues, in particular those affecting peace and stability. The Intergovernmental Conference is currently reviewing the operation of the CFSP and is considering how the present arrangements for EU foreign policy formulation can be improved.