Thursday, 12 February 2004

Questions (74, 75)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

50 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on his recent official visit to Israel and Egypt. [4199/04]

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Michael Noonan

Question:

86 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the situation in the Middle East; his views on recent meetings held with Dr. Nabil Shaath, Palestinian Foreign Minister; if he has had recent contact with the government of Israel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4264/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and No 86 together.

My visit to Israel and Egypt formed part of an intensive round of meetings with leaders from the Middle East during the last few weeks. On 9 January the Palestinian Foreign Minister, Nabil Shaath, came to Dublin and had discussions with the Taoiseach and myself. I visited Israel on 15 and 16 January, where I met President Katsav, Prime Minister Sharon, Foreign Minister Shalom and the leader of the opposition, Shimon Peres. In Egypt, on 17 January, I met President Mubarak, Foreign Minister Maher and the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amre Moussa. Most recently, on 9 February, the Palestinian Prime Minister, Ahmed Queri, visited Dublin where he had discussions with the Taoiseach and myself. During my visit to Israeli I also gave a speech on "The Middle East and Europe" at Tel Aviv University.

In discussions with each interlocutor I stressed the serious situation that the peace process was in and that the road map appeared to be stalled. It seems that the significant initial steps of the road map are too difficult to implement at the moment. Therefore, I took the opportunity to suggest that small, but concrete and visible steps should be taken to help restore confidence in the process. These small steps could have a real effect on the ground by addressing the Israelis' concerns on security, while relieving the dire situation facing the Palestinians. This idea was quite well received by the Palestinians and was met with some interest by Israeli leaders. It also found support with the President and Foreign Minister of Egypt and the Secretary General of the Arab League.

I also discussed bilateral issues in both Jerusalem and Cairo.

Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 9.
Question No. 52 answered with QuestionNo. 10.