Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Questions (40, 49)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

40. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he and his colleagues at EU and UN level continue to endeavour to support efforts to restart the peace process in the Middle East; if any provision is being made to examine the issues deemed to have caused the stalling of the process; if the international community remains committed to the two state solution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28716/14]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

49. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which efforts continue to achieve the release of Palestinian prisoners and the discontinuation of the establishment of new settlements which remains an issue and or an obstacle in attempts to achieve settlement in the Middle East; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28725/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 49 together.

Direct negotiations between the parties were suspended at the end of April, and there is no immediate prospect of the talks being resumed. The essential issues behind the breakdown were the profound lack of trust between the two sides, insufficient political commitment, particularly by the Israeli government, to reaching an agreement, and the continued and indeed accelerated expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory throughout the period of the negotiations.

These are of course not new problems, and we have discussed them many times here in the Oireachtas, and indeed in the EU at the Foreign Affairs Council.

I have called for a substantial review by the EU of its policies and levers on the Middle East issue, and I hope this will begin at the July Foreign Affairs Council. Such a review is clearly critical if we are to maintain the prospect of a viable, two-State solution.

The EU should of course continue to give what support and encouragement it can to a resumption of negotiations, which are the only way to reach a solution. But negotiations for their own sake are of no use, there must be a real commitment to find agreement on the core issues and to make the difficult compromises that inevitably will be involved.

The two state solution remains the only outcome which could satisfy the aspirations of both parties, but the possibility of achieving it is increasingly threatened by various destructive Israeli policies on the ground. In my view, the EU should therefore use the influence and leverage at its disposal to give effect to its disapproval of these policies, and above all the relentless expansion of settlements.

Possible release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel is a matter between the Palestinian and Israeli leaders. The non-release by Israel of the final group of prisoners previously agreed to be released was a significant element in the breakdown of the talks, and I stated at the time that I believed the release should have gone ahead. We are all aware, however, of the sensitivity of this issue in any society.