Priority Questions. - Kosovo Crisis.

Proinsias De Rossa

Ceist:

27 Proinsias De Rossa asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government's view on the situation in Kosovo; the initiative, if any, the Government will take to help secure a peaceful settlement to the conflict and an end to the NATO attacks on Yugoslavia; the representations, if any, he has made to the Yugoslavian Government regarding the ethnic cleansing and reported mass killings of Kosovar Albanians; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12095/99]

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

28 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the situation in Kosovo. [11986/99]

I will only be able to read a few paragraphs of this answer. I will have to reduce my replies to two minutes. I am not complaining, a Cheann Comhairle, I am just pointing it out.

We have only 30 minutes for priority questions and we do not want to waste that valuable time.

I understand that. I am not being difficult. Forgive me if you think I am. I intend to answer Priority Questions Nos. 27 and 28 together.

The time will be doubled in this instance to 12 minutes. The Minister has four minutes for his reply.

I will do my best. I am appalled by the human tragedy inflicted on the population of Kosovo by the criminal and barbaric acts perpetrated by the Serb authorities. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that more than 700,000 persons have either fled or been deported over the past six weeks from Kosovo into the neighbouring countries of Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro. The number of internally displaced could now be around 800,000. Practically the entire Albanian population of Kosovo is affected as the Belgrade authorities maintain their policy of depopulation.

I am gravely concerned about the fate of those Kosovo Albanians remaining in Kosovo. There are reports of mass executions, individual arbitrary killings, the use of civilians as human shields, rapes, torture and other ill-treatment of civ ilians. Refugees have also been killed as a result of military action, including by NATO.

The arrival of such large numbers of refugees in the neighbouring countries risks not only overwhelming the humanitarian efforts to assist them, but also triggering political and economic destabilisation throughout the region. Added to this is the problem of providing humanitarian assistance, in terms of basic food and medical supplies, to those still inside Kosovo.

The Government's position, and that of our EU partners, is very clear. At the last General Affairs Council on 26 April it was agreed that this policy of deportation and destruction of a people could not be allowed to succeed and that those who planned, authorised and executed it should be held personally accountable and brought to justice before the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague. The OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission and other international organisations are gathering evidence from refugees on behalf of the international tribunal. However, statistics on the scale of these crimes have not yet been made available.

Maximum pressure from the international community on President Milosevic and his regime must be maintained. Within the EU, a number of measures to broaden and tighten existing EU sanctions have been agreed, together with a ban on the delivery of oil and oil products to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from member states. I assure the House that Ireland is strictly and fully implementing both these measures, and those decided by the UN Security Council, and will continue to do so.

As a result of the crisis in Kosovo, suffering and death is also being inflicted on the population of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as a whole, including innocent civilians. The human cost and consequences of the policies of the Belgrade Government are unacceptable and further devastation and destruction must be avoided.

Questions are also being asked about the efficacy of the NATO bombings. There are concerns about the high level of what is somewhat euphemistically described as "collateral damage", including civilian deaths and damage to the Yugoslav economy. It seems incredible that just as international peace efforts are beginning to gather momentum, the Chinese embassy should have been hit. I am also concerned at the damage caused to a hospital in Nis and the use of cluster bombs against civilians. In light of recent developments, NATO should reconsider its strategy of bombing infrastructural targets and centres of population in Serbia and Montenegro.

Human life and human rights must not be devalued. This is a dimension to which the UN Secretary General and the UN Commissioner for Human Rights have referred in recent statements. It was also at the heart of deliberations at the recent session of the UN Commission for Human Rights during which our views were made known.

The overwhelming majority of the international community is agreed that a political solution is urgently needed. The primary imperative has to be the swift movement to negotiations and political dialogue. It is essential that the United Nations has a key role and also that Russia is involved. At the meeting of G8 Foreign Ministers in Bonn on 6 May, the basis for a political solution was agreed in the form of seven guiding principles. These build on the five principles identified earlier by the EU and the UN Secretary General.

Additional InformationThese principles are: the immediate and verifiable end of violence and repression in Kosovo; the withdrawal from Kosovo of military, police and paramilitary forces; the deployment in Kosovo of an effective international civil and security presence endorsed and adopted by the United Nations, capable of guaranteeing the achievement of the common objectives; the establishment of an interim administration for Kosovo to be decided by the Security Council of the United Nations to ensure conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all the inhabitants in Kosovo; the safe and free return of all refugees and displaced persons and unimpeded access to Kosovo by humanitarian aid organisations; a political process towards the establishment of an interim political framework agreement providing for substantial self-government for Kosovo, taking full account of the Rambouillet accords and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other countries in the region the demilitarisation of the KLA and a comprehensive approach to the economic development and stabilisation of the crisis region.

The G8 is preparing elements of a United Nations Security Council resolution and will draw up a plan of further concrete steps towards a political solution. I welcome this very positive development. However, the difficulties inherent in implementing these principles should not be underestimated. It is essential that the authority of the United Nations in dealing with this major international crisis should be restored and the Government will actively support these efforts. I also note as a step in the right direction the announcement yesterday by President Milosevic of a partial withdrawal of Serb security forces from Kosovo.

Turning to Ireland's contribution to humanitarian assistance, the Government is conscious of the great humanitarian needs of the Kosovar refugees and the host families in the region. It has given £2.6 million in emergency assistance since the conflict in Kosovo began, including £2.4 million within the last month. The funding has been channelled through a number of Irish NGOs and UN organisations for their humanitarian programmes. In addition, the costs of bringing refugees to Ireland are being met by the Exchequer. It is estimated that these costs will amount to between £13 million and £14 million in 1999. While the response of the international community to appeals for assistance by the UN and other humanitarian agencies has been generous, there is no doubt that further assistance will be required and we intend to respond positively.

EU ministers recently approved the mobilisation of a further 250 million euros for the relief effort. Of this, 150 million euros has been earmarked for the European Community Humanitarian Office. This is in addition to the 32 million euros already disbursed in the region by ECHO on behalf of member states.

Ireland has agreed to take up to 1,000 refugees and I am happy to report the arrival of the first group to Ireland last night. I congratulate all those who worked so hard to put arrangements in place to ensure a warm welcome. The Government is doing everything possible to help them adjust to their new environment. Preparations are well in hand for subsequent arrivals over the next few weeks.

Next Monday EU Foreign Ministers will again consider how best the European Union can support efforts to bring about an early political solution, address the humanitarian crisis, and plan for regional reconstruction through a stability pact for south-east Europe. The Government will also be active in support of complementary activity through the United Nations and the OSCE. The challenge is no longer simply the achievement of our objectives for Kosovo – it is to ensure peace and stability in the entire Balkan region and to strengthen the international system which is facing its biggest challenge since the ending of the Cold War.

I join the Minister in expressing concern at the way in which we are now constrained in hearing ministerial replies to questions. I appreciate that this is an order of the House but it needs to be urgently addressed. It is unsatisfactory that a Minister is cut off in the middle of a reply to serious questions in the House.

I welcome the tenor and tone of the Minister's reply in so far as he was able to give it. Perhaps he might add the remainder of the reply in a supplementary answer. Given that the bombing of Serbia has failed to protect the people of Kosovo, does the Minister agree that, at the very least, it is necessary for a pause in the bombing to enable efforts to achieve a diplomatic settlement gather momentum? Would he also agree that it is important that any diplomatic settlement which will inevitably emerge will not include immunity, or as we currently call it impunity, for any individual or official or unofficial forces, Serbian or otherwise, guilty of attacks on civilians?

I was about to state a number of principles and will then return to the Deputy's reasonable supplementary question. The principles identified by the EU and the UN Secretary General, which answer part of the Deputy's ques tion, are: the immediate and verifiable end of violence and repression in Kosovo; the withdrawal from Kosovo of military, police and paramilitary forces; the deployment in Kosovo of an effective international civil and security presence, endorsed and adopted by the United Nations and capable of guaranteeing the achievement of the common objectives; the establishment of an interim administration for Kosovo to be decided by the Security Council of the United Nations to ensure conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all the inhabitants in Kosovo; the safe and free return of all refugees and displaced persons and unimpeded access to Kosovo by humanitarian aid organisations; a political process towards the establishment of an interim political framework agreement providing for substantial self-government for Kosovo, taking full account of the Rambouillet accords and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and other countries of the region, the demilitarisation of the KLA and a comprehensive approach to the economic development and stabilisation of the crisis region – effectively the stability pact proposed by the EU.

The Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell, will set out Ireland's continuing efforts, particularly those on the humanitarian front. Next Monday, EU Foreign Ministers will again consider how best the EU can support the efforts identified by Deputy De Rossa to bring about an early political solution, address the humanitarian crisis and plan for regional reconstruction through a stability pact for south-east Europe.

I would like to see the bombing end once and for all. I would like those in Belgrade to listen carefully to Mr. Chernomyrdin, the UN Secretary General and others. The difficulty is the mind, manner and demeanour of the individual with whom we are dealing. Mr. Milosevic does not appear to understand or appreciate the terrible obscenity he has created in Kosovo, the ongoing human misery he has created in other parts of his country and the extension of human misery which continues in Albania, Macedonian and Bosnia.

I would like to see peace return but on the conditions outlined in my supplementary reply to Deputy De Rossa's question. As regards the Serb military machine and what has been happening in Kosovo, I hope the diplomacy will not include immunity from prosecution for those guilty of rape, killing or mass murder. Those responsible must be answerable at the bar of public opinion for the crimes and horrors they have committed.

Would the Minister like to ease himself from between the rock and the hard place in which Government policy on this issue has been stuck? Will he confirm that, from 1 May 1999, the EU has the power to direct the Western European Union on the Petersberg Tasks which include those involving combat forces in crisis management on a case by case basis, particularly regarding enforcement? Will he agree that, in order for the bombing to stop, there has to be a plan for an implementation enforcement force to go into Kosovo to ensure the safe return of refugees to their homes?

Has the Minister raised this matter, or does he intend to raise it at the EU General Affairs Council? Does the EU intend to give any policy direction to the Western European Union regarding this matter? Given that the UN Secretary General has taken an initiative involving Mr. Carl Bildt and Russia is also taking an initiative involving Mr. Chernomyrdin, does the Minister agree that the inactivity of the EU, particularly the General Affairs Council, concerning a matter on its doorstep is scandalous? If the EU has not considered this matter, why not? Will he undertake to raise the issue of enforcement and the EU's direction at the meeting next Monday?

Yes – I will raise this issue at the General Affairs Council next Monday, particularly under the heading of enforcement and implementation.