Question No. 25
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he formally raised the expansion of illegal settlements with the Israeli Prime Minister during his recent visit to the Middle East; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
I propose to answer Questions 25, 41 and 43 together.
Earlier this month I undertook a four-day working visit to the Middle East, with meetings in Cairo, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Gaza. In my visit to Israel and Palestine, I met with key representatives of the Government of Israel and of the Palestinian Authority, as well as leaders of other Israeli political parties, our partners in UN agencies, and non-governmental organisations. In all of these meetings I conveyed the importance the Irish people attach to the resolution of the Middle East Peace Process, something that has been a priority for me personally since I took office.
In my meetings with the Israeli authorities, I expressed Ireland’s concerns about the impact of the continuing occupation, including settlement construction. I had a frank discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu about the prospects for returning to negotiations between the parties, and how Ireland and the EU can play a constructive role in the MEPP. I set out the urgent need to break the downward spiral of the situation in Gaza, which is clearly unsustainable, and talked about ways in which it could be alleviated. I put on record my view that to bar individuals from Israel, on the basis that they hold views critical of the Government's policies, is not the way to deal with criticism.
I also had the opportunity to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Foreign Minister Malki, with whom I discussed the challenges facing the Palestinian people, and the prospects for reinvigorating the effort towards peace in the Middle East. I also heard about work to restore the Palestinian Authority to its role in Gaza, giving Palestinians a unified Government, an effort that I encouraged and supported. The Irish Government has for many years consistently supported the objective of Palestinian reconciliation. I also met with the UNRWA Commissioner General, Pierre Krähenbühl, and with representatives of OCHA, and to hear first-hand about their work and the challenges they face.
I was very pleased to be able to meet in Gaza with the Palestinian Authority Minister for Public Works and Housing, as a sign that efforts to restore the Palestinian Authority role in Gaza are underway. I also met there with officials from UNRWA and the OHCHR, as well as representatives of civil society. I saw at first hand the effects of the blockade, and the effects that this is having on young people's prospects and hopes, leading to a dangerous sense of despair. I reaffirmed Ireland's commitment to working to end this situation.
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