Ireland said Wednesday it is to accept two detainees from Guantanamo Bay, the latest European country to help U.S. President Barack Obama fulfill his pledge to close the controversial camp.
The two men, reportedly Uzbeks, are expected to travel to Ireland in the "next couple of months," Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said after informing U.S. ambassador Dan Rooney of the decision.
The move follows a visit by Irish officials to Washington and the Guantanamo camp, on the island nation of Cuba.
"In making this decision I am conscious of the intention of the United States to close the center at Guantanamo Bay, in part by transferring detainees no longer regarded as posing a threat to security but who cannot return to their own countries, to other countries willing to accept them," Ahern said.
He noted that he was the first European Union minister to call for the closure of the facility on Cuba, set up by the former U.S. administration of President George W. Bush.
"The (Irish) government has consistently called for its closure since then," Ahern added, though he declined to give details of the travel arrangements,
In making this decision I am conscious of the intention of the United States to close the center at Guantanamo Bay, in part by transferring detainees no longer regarded as posing a threat to security but who cannot return to their own countries, to other countries willing to accept them
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern
"A definite timetable has yet to be established, (but) the transfer of the two detainees is expected within the next couple of months,” he said.
Media reports have suggested the two are Uzbek nationals, but a justice ministry spokesman declined to comment, and Ahern said the men's privacy would be respected.
He underlined the difficult conditions in which they had been detained for a number of years, saying they would need to be given time and space to adjust to their new circumstances when they arrive.
Obama pledged to close Guantanamo within a year, as one of his first announcements after taking office in January, but questions have been raised over whether it can be achieved.
On June 15, EU foreign ministers agreed a deal with the United States on transferring Guantanamo detainees, but stressed that the decision to accept any inmate was one for individual European governments.
On the same day Obama announced that Italy had agreed to accept three detainees, while Portugal has since said it was ready to take in two or three, and Hungary has offered to accept one or two.
Four detainees of Uighur origin -- from a mostly Muslim minority living in China's northwestern Xinjiang province -- were resettled on the British overseas territory of Bermuda in early June, although it later emerged that Britain had not been consulted.
Other countries which have said they may be willing to accept former detainees include Belgium, Britain, France and Spain, according to officials at the time of the EU-U.S. deal.
The EU-U.S. agreement stops short of insisting that Washington help finance resettlement operations, noting only that "the United States will consider contributing to the costs incurred by EU member states."
A definite timetable has yet to be established, (but) the transfer of the two detainees is expected within the next couple of months