Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan TD, today briefed Senators on his ongoing engagement with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Egyptian Foreign Minister and the Director General of UNRWA seeking a ceasefire in Gaza.
Speaking at a special debate in Seanad Éireann on the crises in Gaza and the Ukraine, Minister Flanagan said:
“I fully share the horror and revulsion of Senators and very many of our citizens at the horrendous scenes we have witnessed since the start of the Israeli military operation. This is a truly appalling situation and the Government has been quite categorical in condemning both the unacceptably high civilian casualty rate resulting from disproportionate military action on Israel’s part as well as the firing of rockets by Hamas and other militants into Israel.
“The violence must stop and an immediate ceasefire must be instituted.
“Earlier this week, I spoke at length with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about the crisis. I condemned the appalling attacks which we have seen on UN and civilian facilities in Gaza and we agreed that both sides have to cease violating international law. The Secretary General was also fulsome in his praise of the Irish Government’s humanitarian efforts to date.
“On Tuesday, I spoke directly with Pierre Krahenbuhl , the Director General of UNRWA, to receive his assessment on the current humanitarian needs within Gaza. Ireland has long been a steadfast supporter of UNRWA’s efforts to provide essential services to the millions of Palestinian refugees throughout the region. Ireland’s direct financial support to the Palestinian people currently amounts to over €10 million per annum.
“I have met and spoken on several occasions with the Israeli Ambassador to make clear the very grave concerns and unhappiness of the Government at the disproportionate military response of Israel to Hamas’ rocket attacks which has resulted in such an unacceptably high level of civilian casualties and warning against further escalation.
“On my instructions, the Irish Ambassador to Israel, Eamon McKee, yesterday visited the Israeli Foreign Ministry. In the course of a lengthy meeting, he again made clear the Government’s very grave concerns and our particular appeal that there should be no escalation of the military campaign underway and the need for all violence to cease forthwith.
“I have also kept in very close touch with the Palestinian Ambassador and spoke this morning with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry. I am determined that Ireland will continue to play the distinct and respected role which it always has within the EU in actively seeking the promotion of the two-State solution which ultimately offers the only remedy to all the conflict we are witnessing.
Minister Flanagan also addressed the EU decision to step up sanctions against Russia in response to the crisis in Ukraine and the loss of flight MH17.
“Despite our repeated calls, Russia has failed to use its influence on the separatists to end the violence and lay down their weapons. Instead there has been a continued flow of militants and material over the Russian-Ukrainian border. Indeed, rather than the situation deescalating, it has worsened and there are credible reports that Russia is once again massing troops on the border. This is a deeply destabilising move in an already highly volatile atmosphere.
Against this background, my fellow EU Foreign Ministers and I last week agreed on a further expansion of restrictive measures targeting individuals supporting or benefitting from Russian decision-makers responsible for the destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine. We also agreed to accelerate the preparation of sectoral sanctions which would impact on Russia’s access to capital markets, arms supplies, dual use goods and sensitive technology, including in the energy sector.