Thursday, 29 May 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
149. Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has discussed with his colleagues in the European Union the issue of the continued confiscastion of Palestinian land and destruction of Palestinian buildings by the Israeli authorities for the construction of the separation wall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15109/03]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): The question of illegal land seizures by the Israeli authorities was considered by the General Affairs and External Relations council on 19 May. The conclusions of the Council on the matter state:
The Council continues to be alarmed at the ongoing illegal settlement activities and land confiscations for the construction of the so-called security fence, which are an obstacle to peace by threatening to render the two-state solution physically impossible.
The Government has consistently taken the view that the transfer of its own population into occupied territory by an occupying power is a flagrant breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The settlements established in the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by the Israeli authorities are illegal and must be dismantled. Land seizures by the occupation forces for purposes of settlement are null and void.
150. Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a recent statement by the United Nations special envoy for the Middle East peace process warning that UN humanitarian operations in the Gaza Strip may have to be suspended due to restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities; if he has made representations to the Israeli authorities on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15111/03]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): I am aware of the statement to which the Deputy refers. The restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities have recently been brought up with Israeli representatives by the Presidency of the European Union in both Athens and Jerusalem and by the European Commission in Brussels. I understand that the measures will be reviewed by the Israeli authorities in the next few days and I am hopeful that they will be lifted. Israel has legitimate security interests, of which we are conscious. However, it also has obligations to the population of the occupied Palestinian territories under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Any security measures necessary must be proportionate and take due account of the needs of the people of the territories and Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law.
151. Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions he has had with his colleagues on the General Council regarding human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories; the plans he has for proposed EU action on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15112/03]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): The situation in the Middle East, including the occupied Palestinian territories, is discussed by Foreign Ministers of the European Union on a regular basis. These discussions encompass human rights issues in the territories. The Union has made representations at various times to both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority on the subject of human rights abuses in the territories. At the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 19 May the Council conclusions stated:
The Council recognised Israel's legitimate security concerns. It is, however, deeply preoccupied by the number of Palestinian civilian deaths and called on Israel to act within the constraints of international law and not to impede access to humanitarian groups.
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