Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Ceisteanna (20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29)

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

90 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the humanitarian and aid situation in Darfur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18732/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

102 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he has taken to ensure the European Union and the wider international community use all possible tools available to put pressure on the Sudanese Government to end the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18771/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Upton

Ceist:

117 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the progress or otherwise he envisages as flowing from the recent one day international conference on Darfur held at the Elysée Palace on the instigation of the French President. [18648/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

128 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in Sudan; the humanitarian assistance that is being made available to the affected regions in that country; the security assistance that will be made available by Ireland to Sudan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18713/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Costello

Ceist:

133 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in Darfur; the progress being made on the proposed 23,000 strong peacekeeping force under the joint authority of the African Union and the United Nations which is due to arrive in 2008 and the ongoing issue of vast numbers of persons displaced from their homes; the further intervention which the international community proposes to take or has taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18660/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

134 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he is satisfied that sufficient steps are being taken to deal with the situation in Darfur; and if he has further proposals in this regard. [18736/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

160 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the timescale for the deployment of the full peacekeeping force in Darfur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18721/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

278 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the measures he is taking to help bring about an improvement in the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18536/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

286 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress that has been made to address the issues of war, starvation and health care in the Sudan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19078/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

287 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in Darfur with particular reference to the need to address the issues of war and starvation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19079/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (7 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Minister for Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90, 102, 117, 128, 133, 134, 160, 278, 286 and 287 together.

I refer the Deputies to my response to Priority Question No. 86, in which I dealt with the timescale for the deployment for the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur and the humanitarian situation, including the plight of the displaced in Darfur. I will respond to the other points raised by Deputies on this matter.

In co-operation with our international partners, the Government is using all avenues to address the crisis in Darfur. Earlier this year, Darfur was raised by the Taoiseach in meetings with UN Secretary General and President Bush and by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in his meetings with representatives of states and organisations capable of influencing Sudan including Egypt, the Arab League and the UN. Both underlined Ireland's support for deployment of an effective joint UN-African Union hybrid peacekeeping force and for improved humanitarian access in Darfur.

The Government has also worked closely with our EU partners to end human rights abuse and improve humanitarian access in Darfur. Most recently, as I mentioned, the General Affairs and External Relations Council of 18 June condemned Khartoum's renewed bombing of civilians and stated that the EU is ready to consider further measures, notably in the UN framework, to ensure humanitarian deliveries and the protection of civilians.

Ireland has actively encouraged the UN Human Rights Council to address human rights abuses in Darfur. We supported its special session on Darfur and its decision in March this year to establish a UN group to work with Sudan on implementing core human rights recommendations in Darfur.

Lasting improvements in the humanitarian and security situations will, however, require progress in the political process. In this context, the Government welcomes the roadmap for the Darfur peace process already proposed by the African Union.

Many of the displaced in southern Sudan have been returning to their homes since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005. However, the currently slow and piecemeal implementation of the agreement threatens to disrupt progress.

The provision of food, shelter and basic medical care for those in need has been a prime focus of Ireland's humanitarian funding in Sudan. Our main partner organisations, including the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Food Programme and Irish NGOs such as Concern, Goal, and Trócaire, prioritise the forms of engagement.

Ireland welcomes the new energy which President Sarkozy's government is bringing to consideration of the situation in Sudan. The meeting on Sudan in Paris on 25 June has reinforced international support for the AU/UN roadmap for the Darfur peace process and underlined the need for quick deployment of the hybrid force. I particularly welcome the fact that China was represented at a senior level at the Paris conference, as I mentioned already to Deputy Allen who expressed a specific interest in this area. That is a positive development.

Is the Minister of State in a position to state what conclusions the Irish Government has drawn from the attendance of China at the Paris conference? What precise results may flow from that?

Will he indicate the shortfall in funding for the hybrid force, whether the existing African Union force is underfunded, where such underfunding is sourced and what it reveals politically?

Will the Minister of State discuss the implications that arise in common territory shared by refugee camps and neighbouring Chad, and the difficult conditions in which the refugee population find themselves in the border areas?

On the latter point, it involves not just Darfur but also the border areas. I mentioned already the Irish Government's support for humanitarian activity in Chad.

On the first part of Deputy Higgins's question, as I stated already the engagement of China in this could be very positive. Chinese engagement typically has been characterised for all sorts of propagandist reasons as negative elsewhere, but I hope it will be positive. China has become a significant player in the region. It has a role to play in assisting. Clearly, it can do so and can be positive.

Is it a fact, despite the rhetorical engagement with the tragedy that is Darfur, that the funding for the African Union force is tragically short, the funding for the replacement force is not yet in place, and some of the principal powers that attended the Paris conference are in default on funding?

Deputy Higgins is correct. In fact, the people who attended the Paris conference have moral as well as other responsibilities to be forthcoming with funding, and funding has been slow.

In view of the reports coming out of Darfur on the tragedy, does the Minister of State expect the hybrid force to be in place by, say, August or September? Will it be in place at all this year? What are the main difficulties, aside from funding?

The main difficulties are political rather than simply funding difficulties. If political decisions were made, funding would follow. I do not have the date for the commencement of the work of the hybrid force.