I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 52 together.
Since I was appointed as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has been a very high priority for me personally. I have visited Israel and Palestine three times over the last eighteen months, holding meetings with the key interlocutors in both places, including both President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. These visits and meetings have allowed me to raise Ireland's priorities with pivotal decision makers.
At present, prospects for the resumption of negotiations centre on the peace plan being developed by the United States. I have engaged with the US Middle East team to encourage this initiative, and to highlight some of the key issues which it will have to address if it is to be successful in meeting the needs of both parties, and laying the foundations for a durable and sustainable peace. I have encouraged my EU colleagues to take a similar approach. The US administration has taken a series of unilateral actions over the past year that have made bringing all interlocutors together for negotiations more difficult. Efforts towards peace are more likely to succeed when attention is paid to creating the right political context for fruitful cooperation. I have conveyed this view to both US and Israeli interlocutors.
Ireland has consistently taken action at both EU and UN levels to ensure that the international community retains a focus on the Israel-Palestine issue. Our attention is focused both on specific issues and events in Gaza and the West Bank, and the broader objective of a resolution of the conflict and an end to the Israeli occupation, something which is essential for the long term future of the Palestinian territory, and indeed also for Israel.
At EU level, issues relating to the Israel-Palestine conflict are regularly discussed at both Ministerial and official level, [most recently in a discussion with the Jordanian Foreign Minister at yesterday’s Foreign Affairs Council.]
The same issues are also discussed regularly at UN level, at the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council. In December 2018, Ireland proposed a Resolution at the UN General Assembly on a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. This resolution, which reaffirmed the long-standing and broadly agreed parameters for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was adopted by an overwhelming majority of 156 UN states, including common EU support. At the most recent session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2019, Ireland co-sponsored four draft resolutions pertaining to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which were adopted by vote.
I held a meeting in Dublin in February to discuss the Middle East Peace Process with a small group of EU and Arab Foreign Ministers, and the Secretary General of the Arab League. At this meeting we considered how the EU, together with the international community, can productively engage and better use all the levers at our disposal, to influence the parties to the conflict, including private messaging on events as they develop.
I firmly believe that the best way forward would be the resumption of negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian parties, to allow both sides to meet their aspirations and resolve their differences, moving on from grievances to a just outcome which meets the needs of both peoples. However, the international community shares a responsibility to help to create a context for such negotiations.
The situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory will remain high on my agenda and I am committed to do everything I can to make a positive contribution to support credible efforts to resume negotiations and to advance the Middle East Peace Process.
I will continue to press for strong EU engagement notwithstanding other problems in the region; to encourage and seek to influence the US initiative; and to explore practical ideas to improve conditions on the ground.