23. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps he will take if the threatened Israeli annexation of part of the West Bank takes place. [18484/20]
Vol. 996 No. 1
23. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps he will take if the threatened Israeli annexation of part of the West Bank takes place. [18484/20]
24. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the efforts he has made at a European Union and at broader international level to prevent the Israeli annexation of the West Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19031/20]
I am taking this question on behalf of Deputy Brady. What steps will the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade take if the threatened Israeli annexation of part of the West Bank takes place? It could be argued that, in reality, certain parts of these lands are already occupied. That is the reality and that is what the dispossessed people of Palestine have been dealing with. They have nobody but us to make their argument. I request that the Irish Government do everything it can to put pressure on the international community and the Israeli Government.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 24 together.
As the Deputies will know, I have given a very high priority to the Middle East peace process since my appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2017 and I will continue to do so as Minister with responsibility for foreign affairs and as Minister for Defence. I have personally been very engaged in efforts to keep the issue high on the international agenda and have made four working visits to Israel and Palestine, most recently in December 2019.
The unilateral annexation by Israel of any part of the occupied Palestinian territory would be a very clear violation of international law. It would have no legitimacy, would not be recognised or accepted by Ireland or by the international community more generally and would be deeply damaging to the two-state solution.
The programme for Government states that the Government will:
Continue to work with other Member States to give leadership within the EU to oppose any annexation or plans to apply Israeli sovereignty over territory in the West Bank, which is part of the occupied Palestinian territory. The Government would regard any such moves as a breach of international law and would consider an appropriate response to them at both national and international level.
I have been forthright in my public statements on the issue of annexation. As I said on 23 April, in a statement which remains in line with the position of this Government:
I think it important, as a friend and partner of Israel, to be very clear about the gravity of any such step. Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law, including the UN Charter, whenever and wherever it occurs, in Europe’s neighbourhood or globally. This is a fundamental principle in the relations of states and the rule of law in the modern world. No one state can set it aside at will.
Ireland has made every effort over the past year to discourage this step. I have raised this matter directly and clearly with Israeli leaders in person including with the Israeli foreign minister this week and during my visit to the region last December. I have also made our position on this very clear to the current Israeli Government in recent days. My officials continue to convey our views to the Israeli authorities. I have also outlined my serious concerns about possible annexation in discussions with US representatives, most recently the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.
I have engaged extensively with European partners, with a view to encouraging strong EU messages, both public and private, against such an action. When this was discussed at the video conference meeting of EU foreign ministers of 15 May, there was broad agreement that the EU and its member states should convey our concerns directly to the new Israeli Government. That outreach is ongoing. I welcome the very clear statements by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, who has stated that annexation could not pass unchallenged and would inevitably have significant negative consequences for the relationship between the EU and Israel.
Ireland consistently takes the opportunity to raise this issue at the UN. At the Security Council, Ireland recently outlined our position on annexation in a statement issued on 21 July. This follows previous Irish statements on the Middle East in the council in April and January of this year. Ireland also spoke out against annexation at the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 15 June.
Annexation would seriously undermine efforts to find a negotiated solution that respects the legitimate positions of both parties. I will continue to work to keep this issue on the international agenda and to prioritise the Middle East peace process, among other issues, as we prepare to take up our seat on the UN Security Council next January.
Even prior to formal annexation, the settlements, which the Israeli Government has promised to maintain at all costs, obviously constitute a de facto annexation. History has shown that Israel has taken different approaches at different times. Will the Minister give us any answers he has received to the questions he has posed to the Israeli ambassador and the Israeli Administration? The Minister was one of 11 EU leaders to sign a previous letter regarding sanctions. There have been EU proposals with regard to sanctions in respect of Crimea. At what point will we put the required pressure on with regard to the Israeli Government's violations of humanitarian and international criminal law?
The Minister correctly said that the proposed annexation would be contrary to international law. It is also correct to say that the illegal settlements are contrary to international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention. Will the Minister and the Government be pushing for sanctions against Israel so that we can uphold international law? It is welcome that the Irish Government was one of 11 European governments to push for action against Israel in respect of this annexation but what actions are the Minister and Government going to take with regard to the current breaches and gross violations of international law? It is not enough for us to be against proposed breaches in the future; we must stand up against current breaches and violations of international law. I ask the Minister to address those points.
I thank both Deputies for their questions and for their clear interest in this issue. It is important to say that I have been consistently vocal with regard to settlements in occupied territory and their expansion in recent years. This is something of which Ireland and the EU have been consistently critical. I have been quite public in that regard through my statements at the level of the UN and the EU and in a number of bilateral meetings with the Israeli Prime Minister and other Israeli representatives.
It is important to say that very clearly. Annexation in some ways would be a step considerably beyond what is currently an unacceptable situation in terms of expanding settlements, because it is about formally extending Israeli sovereignty to land that is not Israeli land; it is Palestinian land. That would fundamentally impact on the relationship between the EU and Israel and we have an obligation to signal that very clearly to the new Israeli Government in a way that is direct, which is what has happened. Many EU governments and Ministers, including me, have asked the European Commission to put a list of options on paper as to how the EU could or should respond should annexation proceed. However, it is important to say that it has not proceeded to date. The new Israeli Government has significant challenges in terms of Covid-19-----
Tá an t-am caite.
-----and its economic impact as well as health impact. That is my understanding of the priority and focus of the new Israeli Government right now. We will continue to do everything we can to discourage any moves to annex land that is not Israeli land.
I welcome what the Minister says. My only difficulty with all of this is the fact that the Israeli Government does not particularly care what anybody else thinks unless pressure is put on it, and the EU is willing to put on the required pressure, similar to what was done regarding Russia and Crimea. I welcome the fact that he has requested a list of actions by the EU. These need to happen whether Israel goes for the possible 30% annexation of the West Bank, a more limited amount, or if it aims for the continuity of the illegal occupation by a nuclear power against a dispossessed people. The power differential here is significant. As much as people might want to maintain a nice cosy relationship with Israel, the fact is that Israel needs to be put under whatever pressure is necessary until it starts to behave as a proper nation.
I welcome the consistent criticism of illegal settlements and breaches of international law by the Minister and the Government. However, I am concerned at the distinction the Minister draws concerning annexation. He says if annexation goes ahead it will affect the relationship between Israel and the EU. The relationship between Israel and the EU should be affected by the existing illegal settlements that are contrary to international law. It is not just any relationship between the EU and Israel. Israel has a preferential relationship with the EU. It gets preferential trade and it is involved in the EU Horizon research programme. There should be no tolerance of breaches of international law. What has been applied to Russia following its annexation in Crimea and the breaches of international law in that regard should also be applied to Israel's breaches of human rights and international law. I ask the Minister to be more than just vociferous on the issue and to outline the action that will be taken against Israel.
I do not accept the point that the Israeli Government does not care. It does listen to what the international community says. Sometimes it takes action in a way that is contrary to the views of many countries, including in the EU. Recent years have been very damaging to a peace process that is very fragile right now in the context of the Middle East peace process. I understand why Irish people have been frustrated by moves that have damaged the prospect of a two-state solution. Expanding settlements is part of that, as well as other decisions that have been made, in particular in regard to Jerusalem in recent years. What we are about right now is sending a very clear signal to a new Israeli Government, which is a different government from the previous one. It is a coalition government comprising a number of different parties that have different perspectives on how they should approach this issue. The focus should be on intense diplomacy and clear language to provide a deterrent to the extension of Israeli sovereignty to lands in the West Bank, which are Palestinian lands. Any change in borders has got to be negotiated and agreed by both parties and not simply imposed by one. Ireland's view is very clear on that and has been made in a respectful but direct way to the new Israeli Government.
Ceist Uimhir 25 is in the name of Deputy John Brady but Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú has been nominated to ask it.
25. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the membership of Ireland of the UN Security Council will be used to defend, advocate and give voice to those persons who are voiceless and dispossessed around the world. [18485/20]
This question is to ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland's membership of the UN Security Council will be used to defend, advocate and give voice to those persons who are voiceless and dispossessed around the world.
To some degree, this is a follow-up to the previous question. We are very disappointed that the programme for Government did not include such positive international actions as the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 We need to look at how we give voice to and represent those people all around the world, not only the Palestinians but those in sub-Saharan Africa, certain areas within Europe and in South and Central America. Ireland has a history of being positive but we need to ensure that we make our mark. We have had a disappointing start.
I question that we have had a disappointing start. We just got elected to the UN Security Council, against the odds, which was a significant achievement for Irish diplomacy. It reminds us that a small country such as Ireland matters and when we put our mind to it, we can persuade a significant majority of countries within the UN that Ireland is a country worth trusting on the UN Security Council. That is what has been achieved. What has to happen next is that we have to use that privilege and ensure that while on the Security Council we make a real difference, in many of the areas that I hope all parties in this House will be able to support. Ireland's membership of the Security Council will be guided by the principles and values enshrined in the UN Charter, which have informed Irish foreign policy over many decades.
I will highlight three overarching principles that will guide our approach. The first is building peace, including championing the UN's role in peacekeeping, reinforcing the link between peacekeeping and peace-building, and further developing co-operation on peace and security between the UN and regional organisations. We need to ensure that peace is inclusive and fully involves civil society, particularly women and young people.
The second is preventing conflict. This means strengthening the full spectrum of the UN's conflict prevention activities, including preventative diplomacy, mediation and non-proliferation and disarmament, and addressing the structural drivers of conflict and insecurity, particularly climate change.
The third is ensuring accountability. This means upholding the rule of law, in particular international humanitarian and human rights law, prioritising the protection of civilians in conflict, ensuring humanitarian access and fighting against impunity.
As a member of the Security Council, we will make every effort to support the meaningful inclusion of marginalised persons and groups in its work. We will aim to ensure that peace processes involve not only governments and the parties to conflicts, but also civil society, women and young people, from the very beginning and throughout the conflict cycle. This is one of the lessons that we have learned from our own experience of conflict on this island. This is also in keeping with the approach Ireland has adopted in its work in support of human rights and in on international development co-operation. This inclusive approach will also inform our broader work across a wide range of issues on the agenda of the Security Council. We will engage with a broad range of partners in an effort to do that.
I may have allowed my own disappointment with the fact that the programme for Government does not endorse the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 to cloud what I said. I accept that we have a positive role to play.
On the role we play, I would like to ensure we are going to be there to represent and advocate on behalf of people who have been dispossessed. Based on our own freedom it is absolutely vital that we look to the interests of those people throughout the world who are under the cosh and do not have human rights. I am very glad to hear language about attacking the drivers of conflict. Can the Minister give any specifics from his Department about possible moves we will make, whether in relation to Palestine or to south and central America, which I mentioned, or any other trouble zones throughout the world? These are areas where we can hopefully advocate and make a difference on behalf of people who are up against it and sometimes up against major global powers.
I can understand the frustration the Deputy has outlined. My position on the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 has been made very clear to this House on many occasions. We cannot do something we are not legally allowed to do and that is the clear advice I have on that Bill. That being said, this week alone I have spoken to the new Israeli foreign minister, this morning to the Saudi foreign minister, and I am meeting the Palestinian ambassador tomorrow. I also spoke to the US Secretary of State, Mr. Mike Pompeo, and most of that conversation was focused on the Middle East peace process and my concerns about it. As such, I wish to reassure the Deputy and the House that within the UN, be it on the Security Council, the General Assembly, or other arms such as the Human Rights Council or elsewhere, Ireland will continue to raise the issue of the Middle East peace process and the need to find a way forward that is fair to both sides. This will be done with a view to trying to achieve a two-state solution whereby two viable states can live side by side in peace. We are a long way from that right now but Ireland will work in every way it can toward achieving that aim.
One of the things we will have to do is to choose and volunteer to chair certain committees. We are going to try to focus on areas where Ireland has both capacity and credibility. Those committees have not been decided yet but they probably will be decided by the end of August or, if not, by mid-September but it will be well in advance of us taking our seat on 1 January 2021.
I welcome what the Minister says. I accept the logic of looking to particular issues where we have capacity and credibility. As such it is vital that we choose where we can make an impact and a positive one. I welcome the conversations the Minister has had already. I know he cannot go into specifics but what positives, if any, has he taken from his dealings with either the Israeli ambassador or the administration? I welcome the fact that he is having a follow-up meeting with the Palestinian ambassador. I would say the Minister's conversation with the US Secretary of State was very interesting.
On the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, we have had disputed legal affirmations about whether this State would come under pressure of fines. There are a number of eminent people who have said we would not and that it is something we should be brave in taking action on. Has the new Attorney General given an updated legal argument on the Bill?
I wish to reassure the Deputy. This was the first opportunity I have had to speak to the new Israeli foreign minister. We had a long conversation lasting about 35 to 40 minutes. It was welcome. I have not spoken to him before this, he has not been in government before now. I believe in engagement. I believe in direct conversation and building relationships. That is the way to persuade people of one's point of view. That is the way one tries to influence governments in other parts of the world with which one may disagree on policy direction. That is the way Ireland can be most impactful in trying to give assistance and support to what I hope in time will be an acceptable peace agreement for both Israelis and Palestinians. That is our only objective here and it should be our focus.
26. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the discussions he had with the NPHET with regard to the production of the green list; if he requested the advice that the expert advisory group provided to the NPHET in this regard; the reason he decided to proceed with a green list given that the clear advice from the NPHET was to discourage persons from foreign travel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19030/20]
The Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Varadkar, and the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Humphreys, have been under the spotlight for the disgraceful move to cut pandemic unemployment payments, PUP, for people who engage in non-essential travel. The Minister himself has not been under much scrutiny but I put it to him that he is significantly responsible for this mess. The statutory instrument which the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Humphreys, is using to cut people off the PUP refers to the travel advice on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which actually says that non-essential travel to a whole list of countries is okay. Did the Minister discuss the advice with NPHET and did they agree with it?
On 21 July the Government agreed a list of 15 locations for which the advice against non-essential travel no longer applies, as far as formal travel advice is concerned. The travel advice for those locations now is to take normal precautions which is represented by a green bar under the system of country risk ratings used by my Department. It is important to note that the list of territories subject to this change in travel advice was compiled in close consultation with the Department of Health. As such it is subject to the views of the range of public officials and advisers engaged on the issue. As on all matters related to the Government's response to Covid-19, the NPHET and the Expert Advisory Group have been and will continue to be vitally important to providing advice to the Department of Health and the wider Government in determining our path forward.
A core criterion in assessing eligibility for inclusion on the aforementioned list is an epidemiological one, namely that the European territories in question had, over the previous 14 days, a similar or lower caseload of Covid-19 per 100,000 people than Ireland, as reported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. This epidemiological benchmark provides us with a level of confidence that inbound travellers from these jurisdictions are not only unlikely to have the virus but they are no more likely than Irish residents they may encounter to have the virus and therefore they represent a very low risk level. The Government will continue to draw upon the expertise and guidance of the NPHET and the Expert Advisory Group as we chart our way through the pandemic response. However, it is important to underline that the role of these bodies is to advise and the role of the Government is to make decisions, taking into account the wider overall view of Ireland’s interests. That is what we have done in this instance and what we will continue to do.
I also say to the Deputy that weeks in advance of this we flagged the fact that we would look at epidemiological data and that we would limit the restrictions to countries that pose a more significant Covid risk than is currently present in Ireland.
Is the Minister saying he is now a public health doctor, an epidemiologist or a virologist?
I am not. Is the Deputy saying he is?
I am not. However the Minister has ignored the advice of the virologists, epidemiologists and the public health experts. He did not answer the question because he knows it would not suit him and would show that the Government has departed from the public health advice, from the expert advice. The Minister is saying there is no threat of bringing the virus back from these countries because they have a lower infection rate but what about solidarity? We might be taking the infection to them. Has the Minister considered that? This is Ryanair dictating public health policy. That is what is actually going on and victims of that are the people who are getting their pandemic unemployment payments cut.
They were understandably confused by the mixed messages, whereby the Department's website explicitly states the injunction against non-essential travel does not apply to 13 countries, including Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus. That is what it says. Some people followed that advice and then had their payments cut.
The Deputy will get another opportunity.
It is shocking.
I ask speakers to stick to the time because we are running way over time.
The Deputy is a great man to try to twist reality to try to make political arguments. The Government message is very clear to people. This year people should holiday at home. That is the safest thing to do for their families and themselves. If people are travelling, and we know that up to 50,000 people a week are, my Department has an obligation to give factual information based on risk and data. That is what we have done. The public health advice, which is to stay at home this year, is very clearly part of the message of the Government to the public but that is a different thing to the obligation that the Department has to assess risk levels in countries and to give accurate information to people who have chosen to travel. That is the position. If we were doing Ryanair's bidding, I do not think it would be threatening to take us to court or, as we speak, giving evidence to a committee criticising the Government's international travel policy, as it does every single day. The truth is the policy we have taken, which is in line with public health advice, has been to dramatically limit international travel to less than 10% of what it would normally be at this time of year. We have done this because it is the right thing to do to protect public health. That is what we continue to do.
I do not make accusations lightly but the Minister has just misled the Dáil, just as he has been misleading the public. Under a heading that mentions general advice to avoid non-essential travel the website states, "In accordance with Government policy, which is based on official public health advice, the Department of Foreign Affairs continues to advise against non-essential travel" but then it states:
as of 21 July, travel to a very limited set of locations is exempted from this advice. The security status for those locations to which non-essential travel can resume has been changed to 'normal precautions'.
It is very clear that these locations are exempted. The injunction against non-essential travel does not apply. It says it in black and white. The statutory instrument that the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, has used to cut off people's pandemic universal payments refers specifically to this. It is the fault of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade that people believed it was okay to engage in non-essential travel because the Department's website said and still says that it is okay and the injunction against non-essential travel does not apply. The Government put out mixed messages and people are now getting their payments cut because of it.
Shouting does not make the point any clearer, quite frankly.
Being dishonest does not make it clear either.
What we have done, and we have made it very clear, is there is an obligation on the Department to provide travel advice to people who choose to travel, which is not consistent with what the Government is asking people. The Government message is very clear that people should holiday at home this year. We are not encouraging, supporting or funding people to go on holidays abroad. If people choose to travel I have an obligation to rate countries on the basis of risk level in order that people can take the appropriate precautions. That is what we have done with regard to travel advice, whereby the so-called green list is a list of destinations that do not pose a greater risk from Covid than is posed here in Ireland. The overall message from the Government is very clear that people should holiday at home with their families this year. That is the safest thing to do.
27. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps taken by Ireland and the international community to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen; the nature of discussions with international partners regarding facilitating a permanent ceasefire in Yemen; the value to the EU of arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, UAE, to perpetuate the conflict; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18543/20]
I want to ask the Minister about the steps taken by Ireland and the international community to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen. I want to ask him about the nature of his discussions with international partners with regard to facilitating a permanent ceasefire in Yemen. I specifically emphasise his role at EU level, particularly with regard to the EU common position of 2008. I also want to ask about the value to the EU of arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which, of course, serve to perpetuate this shocking conflict.
Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 24 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The spread of Covid-19 threatens a catastrophic situation in a country where the health system has been shattered by years of conflict.
Ireland is deeply concerned by this level of humanitarian suffering, and has provided over €27 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen since 2015, including €5 million in 2020. Ireland also contributes substantial funding at global level, including support to the UN's central emergency response fund, a global fund to address the most severe crises. Ireland is one of the top ten contributors to the central emergency response fund, which in 2019 allocated $32 million to Yemen. Ireland also contributes to the EU response, and since 2015 the EU has allocated €484 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen.
Decisions on arms exports are a national competence rather than an EU competence. All EU arms exports are subject to the common position on arms export control, which set out eight criteria that must be met before issuing export licences, including respect for international humanitarian law in the receiving country.
The roots of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen lie in conflict. Ireland and the EU fully support the efforts of the UN special envoy for Yemen, Mr. Martin Griffiths, to bring about a political resolution to the conflict. The UN Secretary General’s call for a global ceasefire in March, later affirmed by Security Council Resolution 2532, gives a renewed impetus to this work.
I welcome efforts made towards a joint declaration between the Government of Yemen and the Houthis, which would commit the parties to a nationwide ceasefire, bring forward a number of economic and humanitarian measures and resume a political process. However, despite the special envoy’s efforts, agreement has still not been reached. I call on all parties to the conflict to engage seriously with these efforts to end the conflict, and ease the suffering of the people of Yemen. I also call on all parties to ensure full, secure and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid and health workers and supplies to all parts of Yemen, to allow lifesaving assistance to reach those in greatest need.
I thank the Minister of State. I want to concentrate more on what we are doing to prevent the continuation of this crisis. I hear about the aid we give, and it is important, but the Minister of State mentioned the fact that arms export licences are a member state competence, which they are. However, we have the EU common position of 2008, which requires all member states to deny export licences if there is a clear risk that the items exported might be used to commit serious violations of EU law and international humanitarian law. We can see the evidence in front of our eyes. There are acts of wilful killing, inhumane treatment, detention centres and serious violations of human rights including torture. There is a systematic campaign of harassment against religious minorities such as the Baha'i. What are we doing at European level to ensure this common position actually delivers?
Ireland does not have a weapons industry and, therefore, it does not supply military weapons to any party in the conflict in Yemen. Arms exports are a national competence in the EU, as I said, but all member states are subject to a common position on arms exports. Each arms export licence must be assessed on the eight criteria I mentioned, including that the recipient country must respect international humanitarian law. It is for each state to make this assessment as a national competence.
Ireland strongly supports the principle of international humanitarian law and calls on the parties in the conflict in Yemen to ensure and respect international humanitarian law. More generally, Ireland supports international efforts to tackle and monitor illicit arms flows through our support for the effective implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty, the 2018 EU strategy on small arms and light weapons and the EU sponsored iTrace project.
All member states have signed up to the arms trade treaty, which exists to ensure that arms sales do not fuel conflicts and to prevent arms from falling into the hands of non-state actors.
The Minister of State said that we do not have an arms industry, and I understand that. However, we are part of the EU and we signed up to the EU Common Position. In fact, together with Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, we had a resolution before the UN to cease the arms supply to this conflict. We are on the same side here, but that is not the question I am putting to the Minister of State. Specifically, what is Ireland doing to try to persuade some of our European colleagues such as Italy and France - we can leave the UK out of it for now - that continue to supply arms to Saudi Arabia and UAE? Other European countries have either declared a moratorium or have ceased supplying arms. How proactive are we in all this? How proactive are we in trying to ensure that this Common Position does what it says on the tin?
I reiterate that arms exports is an issue for the independent state. Our main effort is towards bringing about a peace agreement in Yemen. That is what we have been working on consistently. Along with the EU and the UN, Ireland believes that is the only way to bring about a long-term, sustainable improvement in the situation of Yemen. We fully support, therefore, the efforts of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to broker an agreement. It is important that we put our effort into that solution. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, has been in contact as recently as today with the Saudi Arabian Minister. We will make all efforts in that regard to bring about a viable peaceful solution. However, the issue of arms is an independent competence, not an EU-level competence. It is an individual competence for the member state.