State joins Partnership for Peace on Budget day

 

The Republic will join the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme on Wednesday, NATO sources have confirmed.

A brief signing ceremony, involving the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrews, will take place during an ambassadorial meeting here of NATO's governing body, the North Atlantic Council. The organisation's Secretary-General, Lord Robertson, will sign on behalf of NATO.

This State will be the 28th to join, although Poland and the Czech Republic have since left to join NATO itself. Membership ranges from all the other EU neutrals to Russia and as far as Uzbekistan. Switzerland was the last to sign up in 1996.

With Dail backing safely secured, the Government is moving fast to join PfP, a framework for a series of individually tailored, bilateral agreements between states and NATO.

Following the signing of the Framework Agreement, common to all partners, which binds them to support democratic values, Mr Andrews will hand over to the ambassadors the State's "Presentation Document" outlining the specific aspects of co-operation the Government wants to take part in and, crucially, those it wishes to avoid.

The document, which was published ahead of the Dail debate, makes it clear that the Government sees its involvement as enhancing the Army's peacekeeping capabilities and not implying a mutual defence guarantee.

"Ireland pursues a policy of military neutrality, and does not intend to become a member of NATO," the document says. "Ireland's decision to participate in PfP is in full accordance with Ireland's policy of military neutrality, which has always been pursued in tandem with full and active support for collective security, based on international law." It also reiterates the State's commitment to the ultimate authority of the UN Charter.

Once signed up the State will be offered an office - "a toehold" was how one official put it - with the other partners oerner complex on the edge of the sprawling on the NATO headquarters site. Liaison will be through the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Ambassador to Belgium, Mr Eamon Ryan, who will be accredited to NATO.