Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (128)

Niall Collins


128. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if concerns have been raised at EU level regarding a Russian-led assault in Syria in recent months, which has resulted in a significant number of civilian deaths and the bombing of hospitals leaving thousands without access to healthcare; the action that has been taken by the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32781/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The escalation in violence in north-west Syria is a matter of deep concern. The fighting in recent months has led to the death of more than 230 civilians and the displacement of more than 330,000 people. I condemn, in particular, the airstrikes that are reported to have targeted medical facilities and schools.

The position of the EU on the most recent developments is clear. On 27 June 2019, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini issued a statement on behalf of the EU expressing deep concern over the situation in north-west Syria, strongly condemning the indiscriminate attacks on civilians, and calling on all sides to immediately cease hostilities, and to ensure the protection of the civilian population. At the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on 12 July 2019, the EU issued a statement condemning the indiscriminate attacks on civilians, hospitals and schools in Syria, and reaffirmed the EU’s determination to hold accountable those who violate international humanitarian law.

The bombing of hospitals is an extremely serious violation of the laws of war. We take every appropriate opportunity to speak out against human rights abuses and breaches of international humanitarian law in Syria. On 8 July 2019 Ireland co-sponsored a Resolution on the human rights situation in Syria at the HRC which condemned the indiscriminate or deliberate targeting of civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law.

Russia has a responsibility to ensure that civilians are protected, and to exert its influence on other parties to the conflict to do the same. Our concerns around Russia’s involvement in the conflict have been raised with the Russian authorities directly on several occasions. Ireland has been clear in its condemnation of attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure. I discussed the conflict personally with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on 2 July 2019.

Promoting accountability for crimes committed during the war is an important part of deterrence. Ireland and the EU provide financial support to a range of measures which aim to ensure full legal accountability for all war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria. Ireland has called for the referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. We support the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria established by the HRC, and the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) established by the UN General Assembly. Ireland will contribute €200,000 to the IIIM's work in 2019, which will bring our total contribution to €500,000 since 2017.

Ireland is also a strong and consistent humanitarian donor to the Syria crisis response. In March 2019, Ireland pledged a further €25 million to the crisis, 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.