Brussels, 17 May 2004 - On a motion specifically supported by Austria the EU foreign ministers today deliberated in detail on the situation in Iraq and the abuse of detainees in Iraqi military prisons. In view of this debate, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner assumes that the Council will expressly condemn the incidents in its conclusions today. "I pleaded for the inclusion of this item if only to make clear that the European Union is unanimous in its repudiation and condemnation of these incidents," Austria’s Foreign Minister said between sessions of the European Council of Foreign Ministers in Brussels today.
As time and again over the last few days, Ferrero-Waldner expressed her horror and dismay at the inhuman acts and condemned them in the most emphatic terms, stressing that the same applied to the abhorrent public execution of an American detainee in Iraq. The Foreign Minister demanded that the people responsible be called to justice and measures be taken to prevent a repetition of such incidents. "I was gratified to note the US declarations on this point. The critical issue for all of us here is observance of international humanitarian law and respect for the universally applicable human rights, which Austria has always emphatically advocated", the Foreign Minister continued.
Given the current international climate and in particular the relations between the countries of the Near and Middle East and the western world, Ferrero-Waldner considers the possible ramifications of new acts of violence, including those in the occupied Palestinian territories, as "a major cause for concern." "Regrettably, the crimes committed in the Iraqi prisons also undermine the credibility of the efforts to set up a democratic order governed by the rule of law in this country, which we all strongly support. The political restructuring in Iraq - and this is the basic view we have clearly advocated ever since the outbreak of the conflicts - should take place with the support of the United Nations and with the active participation of the international community. In the near future efforts will have to focus above all on the credible and successful transfer of sovereignty to an interim government, as planned for the middle of this year, so as to finally create the basis for stabilisation of the security situation in Iraq. This will then permit a sustainable improvement in the living conditions of the country’s population, which has been suffering under suppression, want and war for so many years", Ferrero-Waldner continued.
"In view of the disquiet and concern caused by the recent developments in Iraq and the Middle East I have arranged for a meeting of the Austrian Council for Foreign Affairs to be called, which will convene already on Wednesday (19 May 2004) to deliberate on these important foreign policy issues," Ferrero-Waldner concluded.