To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update on the situation in Syria; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
The situation in Syria continues to be a matter of grave concern. 13.5 million Syrians are now in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria including 6.3 million internally displaced people, 1.5 million are living under siege conditions which gives rise to serious protection concerns, and a further 5 million Syrian refugees have fled to neighbouring countries and the wider region.
I was horrified to learn of the apparent chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun last week which killed scores of civilians and seriously injured many more. The attack was simply barbaric, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families. I condemn unreservedly the attack and those responsible.
I am also aware of course of the US missile strikes on Shayrat Airfield in Syria. I understand that the US intention was to prevent further chemical attacks. The High Representative, Federica Mogherini, issued a statement on behalf of EU Member States in response to those missile strikes.
The attack in Khan Sheikhoun further underlines the need for accountability and a genuine political transition in Syria. The search for a sustainable peaceful resolution to the conflict, and, as part of that, ensuring full legal accountability for all war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria, is a top foreign policy priority for Ireland.
I had the opportunity to discuss the situation in Syria with EU Foreign Ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council last week. My EU colleagues joined me in condemning the continued widespread abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties, especially the Syrian regime. We also agreed the new EU Strategy for Syria, and reiterated our position that there can be no EU support for reconstruction until a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition, owned by the Syrian people, is firmly under way.
Minister of State McHugh attended the Conference on supporting the future of Syria and the Region in Brussels last Wednesday at which Ireland pledged an additional €25million in humanitarian assistance for Syria and the neighbouring refugee hosting countries in 2017. Ireland has already contributed €76.5 million to the humanitarian effort in Syria. 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 this issue.
Ireland fully supports the UN-led Geneva peace process and the work of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and remains committed to supporting efforts towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict. It remains to be seen how the events of the past week will impact on these efforts.