Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (91)

Damien English

Question:

219 Mr. English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts being made by the Government, through the European Union, to progress the Middle East peace process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25222/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The Government's position on the Israel-Palestine conflict has been one of consistent support for a peaceful solution. Together with our EU partners, we are working for a negotiated end to the conflict leading to two states, Israel and Palestine, living at peace within secure and recognised borders.

The General Affairs and External Relations Council considered this issue once again on 11 October in Luxembourg, and in its conclusions reaffirmed the EU's long standing positions on the quartet roadmap and Israel's proposed unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. While an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and part of the northern West Bank could represent a significant step towards the implementation of the roadmap, the Council underlined that the withdrawal must not be an attempt to replace the roadmap and the two state solution it encompasses. It also recalled that settlement activity is contrary to the roadmap.

The Council reaffirmed the position taken by the European Council in March and endorsed in the Tullamore declaration on the conditions which must be met by any Israeli withdrawal plan. The following five elements are essential to make a Gaza withdrawal acceptable to the international community: it must take place in the context of the roadmap; it must be a step towards a two state solution; it must not involve a transfer of settlement activity to the West Bank; there must be an organised and negotiated handover of responsibility to the Palestinian Authority; and Israel must facilitate the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Gaza.