Minister Costello addresses Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade on visit to Middle East16 October 2013
Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello TD addressed the joint committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade today on his recent visit to Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territory.
“The visit demonstrated Ireland’s continued leadership and commitment to respond to one of the most serious and complex humanitarian situations in the world today”, Minister Costello said.
In Beirut the Minister met representatives of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, (UNRWA), and announced €500,000 in funding for their activities. He also met the UNHCR, and Mr Wael Abou Faour, Minister of Social Affairs for Lebanon to discuss the refugee crisis. Minister Costello said: “I was keen to see the impact of the ongoing Syrian crisis and the particular impact it has on refugees. The scale of the Syria conflict and its devastating humanitarian consequences continue to outstrip forecasts and planning scenarios.
“Lebanon - A country of 4.3 million persons - now hosts 768,175 refugees and at the UNHCR registration office in Beirut I saw that thousands of people are still arriving every day, seeking life-saving assistance from the UN. In fact, UNHCR now estimates that with current trends, the country will host a million refugees by the end of the year; equivalent to almost a quarter of Lebanon’s current population.”
Minister Costello then visited the occupied Palestinian territory to meet a cross-section of community organisations from both Israeli and Palestinian and representatives of the UN and NGO fraternity. He held a series of high-level meetings with senior Palestinian government representatives, including Prime Minister Hamdallah and Chief Negotiator Dr. Erekat with whom he discussed progress in the new Middle East peace talks.
The Minister said:
“In the occupied Palestinian territory, the political and humanitarian situation continues to be precarious. Limited access to essential services, food insecurity and serious protection and human rights concerns continue to characterise the day-to-day lives of many Palestinians. Currently, over half of households in Gaza and one fifth of households in the West Bank are food-insecure.
“Long-term, sustainable development in the occupied Palestinian territory is, of course, dependent on a successful outcome to the ongoing political negotiations. Ireland will continue to actively support the search for a lasting and peaceful political solution in the occupied Palestinian territories as well as in the wider region, but in the meantime will continue to offer the humanitarian support which is essential in addressing the ongoing basic needs of the Palestinian people.”