Irish participation in EU peace missions 'compatible' with UN role


IRISH PARTICIPATION in EU peace missions is “fully compatible” with its peacekeeping role in the United Nations, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said in Dublin yesterday.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Taoiseach Brian Cowen, the UN chief said: “This is a totally compatible commitment.”

He reiterated the point later at a meeting with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Mr Ban also told the news conference, held after a working lunch with Mr Cowen, that he had invited the Taoiseach to attend the special UN summit on climate change in New York on September 22nd.

Commenting that he “would like to be in a position to attend”, Mr Cowen added: “I’m conscious it will be a very busy month in the context of a referendum as well, but I do think it is an important conference where Ireland can show its commitment to what is an issue about which the Treaty of Lisbon is fundamental.”

Mr Cowen said the two men had discussed the continuing efforts to secure the release of Goal workers Sharon Commins and Hilda Kuwuki, who were kidnapped in Darfur last week. “We’re very deeply grateful for the wonderful help we’re getting from UN personnel on the ground in Sudan as we seek to assess and establish what way we can help for their safe return as quickly as possible,” Mr Cowen said.

Mr Ban said the UN would “spare no effort in providing necessary support and co-operation” in securing the safe return of the two aid workers.

Mr Ban also met Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment John Gormley for a discussion on climate change.

In an earlier address at Dublin Castle under the auspices of the Institute of International and European Affairs, Mr Ban pointed out that the UN and the EU were working together in many crisis situations around the world.

“These joint activities and engagements serve the cause of peace and uphold the principles of the United Nations. They make it more likely that we will achieve our common goals,” he said..

“I know how carefully Ireland considers its overseas military deployments. I know as well that a UN mandate is one of the requirements not just as a matter of policy, but as a matter of law.

“Let me assure you that Ireland’s participation in EU military and civilian missions is fully compatible with its traditional support of the United Nations.

“This is not a zero-sum game in which more support for one institution means less for the other. We are in this together. There is no competition between the two. We share values and objectives and are on a welcome path of ever-closer co-operation.”

There were “many ingredients” for successful peace operations. “But a critical factor for success is the capacity of our global organisation to work effectively with regional organisations.”

The UN had “an ever-expanding relationship” with the EU. “The EU is one of our most important partners,” Mr Ban said. “The EU offers critical donor support for peacebuilding and early recovery. It has well-developed capacities for crisis management, humanitarian relief and rapid response.

“And, of course, the EU can deploy well-equipped missions as part of, or alongside, UN peacekeeping operations.”

Mr Ban reiterated the point at a meeting with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, where he said Irish participation in EU missions of this type was “fully in keeping with your commitment to the United Nations”.

Referring to recent cutbacks in Ireland’s overseas aid budget, Mr Ban said: “I know that aid has contracted recently as a result of the global economic crisis but I have also been heartened to hear from Irish officials that this is just a temporary decline and that your commitment [remains] to reaching [the] 0.7 per cent of GNP target by 2012.”

Commenting on his recent visit to Burma, Mr Ban said he was “deeply disappointed” his request to meet detained democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi was not granted. He said he had told one of the leaders of the military junta: “‘You have missed a unique opportunity of engaging with the international community.”

He called for her release and urged that the elections planned for next year be “free, transparent, legitimate and credible”.