Cabinet to discuss sending Irish officials to Syria

The Cabinet will today discuss a United Nations request to deploy a small number of Irish officials to a new international mission to monitor the fragile ceasefire in Syria.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the Government was favourably disposed to the request but declined to say how many officials would be involved. He added that the mission would comprise unarmed monitors and not troops

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Luxembourg to discuss Burma and Syria. Photograph

“There are two phases. There’s an initial phase of 30 monitors who will go in immediately and there’s a second phase of 300,” he told reporters yesterday on the sidelines of an EU meeting in Luxembourg.

“It will be something that the Government will decide on tomorrow but we’re positively disposed towards it. The total mission is 300 which is a total UN mission so you can expect that it will be proportionate.”

He was speaking as the ministers imposed the latest in a long line of economic sanctions on the regime led by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, penalties which included a ban on the export of unspecified “luxury goods”.

“I think the situation is still very dangerous. You will have seen there have been attacks and we don’t have a proper ceasefire,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters.

“There are observers now on the ground and I hope that their presence will make a difference.”

Separately, the ministers suspended most of their sanctions against Burma but retained an arms embargo.

The move reflects an easing of tension with the military regime in the country in the wake of a ground-breaking byelection on April 1st in which democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi and 42 members of her party were elected to parliament.

Although a row has since broken out over the parliamentary oath, Baroness Ashton said there was no reason for the EU authorities to do anything other than what they were doing in respect of the sanctions. “The specific wording, which I would not pretend to be able to translate properly, needs to reflect the fact that the constitution is important but needs to be changed and I think that’s a discussion that’s happening,” she said.

Mr Gilmore said the suspension of the sanctions would be reviewed in October.

“I expressed the concern that there is still an unknown number of political prisoners who are still in jail in Burma that they have to be released unconditionally and that we have to see more progress on the part of Burma to make democratic and human rights improvements.”

Source: The Irish Times

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