Written Answers - Middle East Peace Process.

Wednesday, 14 December 2005

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 612 No. 72

First Page Previous Page Page of 197 Next Page Last Page

  50.  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   if he will make a statement on the third party role to be undertaken by the EU in the Agreement on Movement and Access between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority discussed at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting in Brussels on 21-22 November 2005. [39237/05]

  61.  Mr. Morgan  Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   the date of deployment of the EU mission relating to the Agreement on Movement and Access between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority and agreed to at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting in Brussels on 21-22 November 2005. [39240/05]

  75.  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   his views on the Agreement on Movement and Access between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority discussed at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting in Brussels on 21-22 November 2005. [39236/05]

  86.  Mr. Ferris  Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   the concept of operations for the EU mission agreed to be undertaken relating to the Agreement on Movement and Access between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority discussed at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting in Brussels on 21-22 November 2005. [39238/05]

  106.  Mr. Ferris  Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   if he will make a statement on the commitments included in the Agreement on Movement and Access between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority that were referred to by the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council conclusions from its meeting in Brussels on 21-22 November 2005; and the way in which the EU intends to ensure that these commitments are translated into reality. [39239/05]

  120.  Mr. Morgan  Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   when the Rafah border crossing point discussed at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting in Brussels on 21-22 November 2005 is likely to be fully opened. [39241/05]

  203.  Aengus Ó Snodaigh  Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   if he will use the opportunity of the General Affairs and External Relations [955]Council on 15-16 December 2005, in particular the EU-Israel Association Council item, to ensure that further progress is made with regard to the role of the EU in ensuring that the commitments made in the Agreement on Movement and Access between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority are translated into reality and built on; and if he will press for the suspension of the Euro-Mediteranean Association Agreement with Israel on the basis of Article 2 of that agreement. [39522/05]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  I propose to take Questions Nos. 50, 61, 75, 86, 106, 120 and 203 together.

The Government and our partners in the EU warmly welcomed the conclusion of the Agreement on Movement and Access between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on 15 November, with the assistance of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and High Representative Solana. The agreement represents a major step towards improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza and promoting economic development following Israel’s disengagement.

It provided for the opening before the end of November of crossing points between Gaza, Israel and Egypt. It enables the export of all agricultural products from Gaza during the current harvest season. It establishes arrangements, which we hope to see finalised this month, for convoys between Gaza and the West Bank and it provides for the construction of a seaport in Gaza, and further discussion on rebuilding the airport. The EU is working together with the US and other members of the international community to ensure that the parties resolve the outstanding issues under the agreement and maintain their commitment to its full implementation.

At the invitation of both parties, the EU agreed to play a third party role to ensure that the agreement could take effect. The meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council which I attended in Brussels on 21 November decided to launch an ESDP mission to monitor the operation of the border crossing point at Rafah, on the Gaza-Egypt border, and to help build Palestinian border management capacity. The Government has contributed €200,000 towards the set-up costs of the mission.

It began operations on 25 November, with the re-opening of the crossing point. It is expected to last for 12 months, with a total staff of some 70 personnel drawn from member states. We expect that the mission will be fully operational in January, which will allow continuous opening of the crossing. So far, the crossing has opened for some six hours a day, which has, in fact, been sufficient to meet the needs at the moment of the population of Gaza.

The concept of operations for the mission is a confidential document setting out the parameters under which it will act. The overall role of the [956]mission, however, is to monitor, verify and evaluate the performance of the Palestinian authorities in implementing the agreed principles for the Rafah crossing. It also contributes to Palestinian capacity building in border and customs management and to liaison between the Palestinian, Israeli and Egyptian authorities in all aspects of the management of the crossing point. It is important to note that the mission in no way detracts from the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility for border and customs management.

The overall role of the EU was reviewed at the meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council which I attended in Brussels on 12 December. The EU-Israel Association Council had been due to meet the same day. However, the Israeli Government requested a postponement in view of the opening of the general election campaign in Israel. I look forward to the rescheduled meeting during the Austrian EU Presidency, in the first half of 2006. I do not believe that suspension of the association agreement, which would require consensus within the European Union, would serve the interests of any of the parties. Such action could seriously undermine the role of the EU in the peace process and create difficulties in implementing programmes of assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

  51.  Aengus Ó Snodaigh  Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   if, in view of the acknowledgement by the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council conclusions from its meeting in Brussels on 21-22 November 2005 that Israeli activities including the construction of the apartheid wall, settlement building and home demolitions threaten to make any solution based on the coexistence of two viable states physically impossible and are contrary to international law and in particular in view of the fact that these activities are in breach of the fourth Geneva Convention outlawing collective punishment, he will urge the EU to suspend the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement with Israel under Article 2 of that agreement which provides its suspension on the grounds of non-compliance with international law and human rights. [39245/05]

  60.  Ms Shortall  Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   his views on the opening of an Israeli checkpoint at Rachel’s Tomb in the Beit Sahour municipality in the occupied Palestine territory, which controls movement between Bethlehem and east Jerusalem and which is having an extremely deleterious impact on the local economy and tourism, as has been raised by the local mayor; the discussions he and his officials have had on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39285/05]

  77.  Ms Shortall  Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   his response to the substance of a United Kingdom Foreign Office memorandum, report[957]edly presented to the EU Council of Ministers in a meeting of 21 November 2005, in which it was claimed the continued construction of settlements and the West Bank barrier wall by Israel, in violation of international law, are deliberately intended to ensure the de facto annexation of the Arab area of Jerusalem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39286/05]

  91.  Mr. Crowe  Information on Sean Crowe  Zoom on Sean Crowe   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   if he will make a statement on the Israeli practice of home demolitions in the occupied Palestinian territories, and in east Jerusalem in particular, stated to be of grave concern by the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council conclusions from its meeting in Brussels on 21-22 November 2005; and if he will make a further statement on the discussions which took place on this matter at the meeting. [39242/05]

  130.  Aengus Ó Snodaigh  Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs,  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   in view of the acknowledgement by the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council conclusions from its meeting in Brussels on 21-22 November 2005 that Israeli activities including the construction of the apartheid wall, settlement building and home demolitions threaten to make any solution based on the coexistence of two viable states physically impossible and are contrary to international law, the steps he and the EU will take to force Israel to cease the activities in question; and if these steps will include the suspension of preferential trade with Israel. [39244/05]

  132.  Mr. Crowe  Information on Sean Crowe  Zoom on Sean Crowe   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   the steps that he and the EU intend to take to bring about an end to the Israeli practice of home demolitions in the occupied Palestinian territories on which the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council conclusions from its meeting in Brussels on 21-22 November 2005 expressed grave concern. [39243/05]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  I propose to take Questions Nos. 51, 60, 77, 91, 130 and 132 together.

The Government, together with its partners in the EU, firmly believes that the quartet road map provides the best framework for a peaceful and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The EU is working with the parties to ensure that they take advantage of the opportunity offered by the Israeli disengagement from Gaza for a return to full implementation of the road map. This will require parallel action by the Israeli Government and by the Palestinian Authority.

The Union has consistently outlined its clear view of the requirements of both parties if further progress is to be made towards a negotiated settlement based on the road map. We have called on the Palestinian Authority to fulfil its obligations on security issues and we will support [958]their efforts to this end. The EU has also repeatedly stressed the need for a halt to Israeli settlement activities in the Palestinian territories and expressed its serious concern at the continuing construction of the separation barrier in occupied territory, contrary to international law.

The two meetings of the General Affairs and External Relations Council which were held during November reviewed all aspects of the Middle East peace process, including Israeli activities in the Palestinian territories. The conclusions adopted by the meeting on 21 November underlined in particular the grave concern of the EU at Israeli activities in and around east Jerusalem, including settlement building, construction of the separation barrier and house demolitions. They set out the clear view of the Council, including Ireland, that these activities reduce the possibility of reaching a final status agreement on Jerusalem, threaten to make any solution based on the coexistence of two viable states physically impossible and are contrary to international law. The EU will maintain its opposition to any measures which would prejudge the outcome of permanent status negotiations. The EU will not recognise any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties.

The Government recognises the right, and indeed the duty, of the Israeli Government to protect the security of its citizens. However, the EU has consistently urged Israel not to pursue policies which create obstacles to the implementation of the road map and, therefore, to the prospects for a lasting settlement. I am also concerned at the humanitarian and economic consequences of policies in the occupied territories and at the infringements of recognised human rights principles for the Palestinian population.

I am aware of the particular difficulty which the checkpoint referred to, in the Beit Sahour municipality, is causing for anyone wishing to travel between east Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I am also conscious of very real concerns about the negative effect on the local economy. The problems are highlighted at this time of the year when many pilgrims from around the world who would wish to visit Bethlehem face the prospect of significant delays. In our bilateral contacts with the Israeli authorities, and in co-operation with our EU partners, the Government continues to emphasise that all security measures, including demolition of houses, should conform with the requirements of international humanitarian law and should be applied in a manner which minimises negative consequences for the civilian population of the occupied territories.

The Government and its partners in the EU will continue to engage directly and constructively with the Israeli Government and with the Palestinian Authority to encourage them to fulfil their obligations under the road map and under international law. I do not believe that the suspension of the EU’s Association Agreement with [959]Israel, which would require consensus within the European Union, would serve the interests of any of the parties. Article 2 of the agreement, to which the Deputy refers, reinforces obligations which already apply to the signatories with respect to human rights. Meetings of the Association Council provide the EU with an important additional opportunity to highlight concerns about the human rights implications of Israel’s security policies. A move to suspend the agreement could seriously undermine the role of the EU in the peace process and create difficulties in implementing programmes of assistance to the Palestinians.


Last Updated: 04/11/2010 01:10:23 First Page Previous Page Page of 197 Next Page Last Page