Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Questions (125)

Thomas Pringle


125. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the recent urgent plea made by medics and an organisation (details supplied) regarding massacres in north-west Syria by constant air attacks; the efforts being made to reduce deaths in remaining conflict zones; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23596/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I remain deeply concerned about the plight of the Syrian people, and I am particularly concerned by the worsening humanitarian situation in the north-west of the country. The latest violence there has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians, and displaced over 270,000 people last month, bringing the total number of displaced to over 300,000 since April. I am aware of the very alarming reports from medical professionals and other humanitarian organisations - including the organisation referred to by the Deputy - in relation to the situation there. I condemn in particular the airstrikes that are reported to have targeted medical facilities and schools, in contravention of international humanitarian law. Ireland will continue to call on all parties to uphold their ceasefire commitments, and cease military activities in the Idlib region. We will also continue to urge those with influence on the Syrian regime to exert pressure to ensure that civilians are protected, and to encourage the Syrian Government to engage fully with the UN-led peace process. 

This upsurge in violence has also had a serious impact on critical civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and schools, and the ability of humanitarian actors to carry out their activities has been severely compromised. I urge all actors to abide by UN deconfliction mechanisms to prevent further casualties and destruction, and to guarantee unrestricted access and safe channels for humanitarian assistance to reach those most in need.  

Ireland and the EU firmly believe that eight years of war have shown that military action cannot bring lasting peace to Syria. Only a holistic and comprehensive political process can bring about a lasting end to the conflict. Ireland fully supports the UN-led efforts to bring about a political resolution to the conflict, in accordance with the 2012 Geneva Communiqué and UN Security Council Resolution 2254.  The EU provides direct assistance to the Geneva peace talks and has launched, in coordination with the UN, an initiative to develop political dialogue with key actors from the region to identify common ground.

Ireland is a strong and consistent donor to the Syria crisis response, and our funding supports those in most need inside Syria as well as Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities in the region. In March 2019, Ireland pledged a further €25m contribution to Syria and the region this year, bringing the total amount of humanitarian assistance committed to the Syria crisis to over €143 million since 2012 – our largest ever response to any single crisis. Our 2019 funding includes a contribution of €2.5 million to the United Nation’s Turkey Humanitarian Fund for the Syria Response (THF), which is supporting the emergency cross-border response to the current humanitarian situation in northwest Syria.

Ireland will continue to follow the situation closely, and engage with the UN and other partners operating in the region as the situation unfolds.