Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade report on his most recent meeting at the EU Foreign Affairs Council
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on his most recent meeting at the EU Foreign Affairs Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
I attended the most recent EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg on Monday 3 April where Syria, Yemen and Libya were on the agenda. My EU counterparts and I also met with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Ahmed Abou El Gheit.
The conflict in Syria is causing untold suffering and displacement of civilians on the ground. At the Council meeting, I and my EU counterparts condemned once again the continued systematic, widespread and gross violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties, especially the Syrian regime. We made clear that the Syrian regime has the primary responsibility for the protection of the Syrian population, and call upon the regime and its allies, notably Russia, to undertake all efforts to ensure a full cessation of hostilities; the lifting of sieges; and full unhindered sustainable country-wide humanitarian access.
Ireland's humanitarian assistance to the victims of the Syria crisis reached €76 million as of March 2017, and we pledged a further €25 million at the recent conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” which was held in Brussels on Wednesday 5 April. This is Irish Aid's largest response to a single crisis in recent years, which is indicative of the level of priority we attach to the issue.
EU Foreign Ministers also discussed the severe humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which is also of grave concern. I have previously discussed Yemen with my counterparts in the Gulf region, and raised concerns about the humanitarian situation and attacks which have directly impacted on civilians. I and my EU colleagues reiterated our strong support for the efforts of the UN Secretary General and the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to achieve a resumption of negotiations and called on all parties to urgently agree on a cessation of hostilities to be monitored by the UN as a first step towards the resumption of peace talks under UN leadership. Ireland has provided almost €6 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen since the conflict began and will maintain our support in 2017.
The Council also discussed the political situation in Libya, and the urgent need for a political solution that would unite the country under the Libyan Peace Agreement.
This was the first meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council since the UK formally triggered Article 50 on 29 March and the circulation of the draft negotiation guidelines on 31 March. I continued my extensive engagement with EU counterparts by having bilateral meetings with the Foreign Ministers of Sweden and Austria respectively to discuss ongoing preparations for the upcoming Brexit negotiations and Ireland’s priority issues, namely the economy, Northern Ireland, the Common Travel Area and our vision for the future of the EU.