Minister Flanagan briefs the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade11 November 2014
Minister Flanagan briefs the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade on Ireland’s response to Ebola, the Middle East Peace Process and the situation in Ukraine
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, today briefed the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade on Ireland’s assistance to communities devastated by ebola; the Peace Process in the Middle East and the situation in Ukraine and Syria.
Ireland is to send three members of the Defence Forces to Sierra Leone to assist the staff of the Irish Embassy to continue to respond effectively to the ebola epidemic, Minister Flanagan said.
“Minister Coveney and I have agreed that a contingent of Irish Defence Forces personnel will be deployed to Sierra Leone to work with and support our Embassy staff in Freetown. This contingent of three personnel, all of whom have vast collective experience in West Africa, will be deployed to the Embassy under my Department’s Emergency Civilian Assistance Team, or E-CAT, initiative.
“By adding experience in areas such as emergency planning and response, logistics, security assessment and risk mitigation and paramedic training, those deployed will add a significant new dimension to Ireland’s contribution.
“The deployment, in conjunction with the work being carried out by our Embassy, other government agencies and Irish NGOs demonstrates clearly the long standing commitment of the Irish people to assisting the most vulnerable communities overseas. We are also working with the UK, the USA, the UN organisations and NGOs. This deployment will enhance the mission’s capacity to continue playing a key role.
On the situation in the Middle East, the Minister reiterated his support for a two-state solution and expressed concern at the recent rise in tensions in East Jerusalem:
“I have been vociferous in pressing for the EU to play a much stronger role in promoting and supporting the Peace Process. As was widely recognised at the Cairo Conference, the crisis in Gaza cannot be divorced from the wider political context and the continuing failure to make any real progress towards ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieving a negotiated two-State solution.
“The overall situation on the ground within the Occupied Territories has continued to sharply deteriorate in recent months since the outbreak of the Gaza conflict. Tensions have become dangerously heightened and there have been a series of violent incidents in recent days which have resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians and bystanders and which I obviously condemn.
“Meanwhile, Israel has continued to announce further large-scale settlement expansions in highly sensitive areas such as East Jerusalem. These announcements, which are directly inimical to any prospects for pursuing peace or promoting a two-State solution, have drawn widespread international condemnation, including on my own behalf in statements which I issued on 1 September and 28 October.
“We believe very much that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can ultimately only be resolved through negotiations and securing a comprehensive peace agreement which provides for a viable two-State solution. All our policies and actions at EU and international level are constructively designed to advance this goal and secure a comprehensive peace agreement at the earliest opportunity.”
“This month’s Foreign Affairs Council is likely to see some discussion of Sweden’s decision on 30 October to formally recognise Palestine as a state. We believe very much that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can ultimately only be resolved through negotiations and securing a comprehensive peace agreement which provides for a viable two-State solution. All our policies and actions at EU and international level are constructively designed to advance this goal and secure a comprehensive peace agreement at the earliest opportunity. As circumstances change, our policies need to be reviewed and evaluated and this process is underway.”
Minister Flanagan also spoke about the conflict in Syria and urged the international community to fully support the new UN Special Envoy, Steffan di Mistura, in his efforts to build support for a transition to a new, agreed form of government within Syria.
He said: “Equally, within Iraq, the new unity government led by Prime Minister Al-Abadi must be strongly encouraged to continue efforts to promote reconciliation and more inclusive policies within the country. Accountability for all those, including the many members of minority communities, who have suffered grievously at the hands of extremists, be it ISIS or the Assad regime, also remains critical and is why we continue to strongly support referral of the situation in Syria to the ICC.
“Finally, we must never forget the humanitarian dimension of the crises in Syria and Iraq, with the onset of winter only compounding the problems confronting the millions of people internally displaced or refugees. This is a genuine regional crisis, impacting severely on both Syria’s and Iraq’s neighbours, and only reinforces the case for development of a comprehensive EU regional strategy to confront it.
On the Ukraine, Minister Flanagan said:
“A lasting ceasefire remains key to the success of current efforts to reach a sustainable political solution, which must be based on respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and with clear guarantees on border security, disarmament of all illegal groups and the withdrawal of foreign forces.
“It is vital that all sides abide by the commitments they have signed up to under Minsk and that no effort is spared in working to implement the Protocol and bring about a negotiated end to this tragic conflict. I look forward to the early formation of a new government which can provide new impetus to the much needed programme of economic and political reforms.”
11 November 2014