I propose to take Questions Nos. 832 and 833 together.
The Programme for Government states that the Government will “continue to work with other Member States to give leadership within the EU to oppose any annexation or plans to apply Israeli sovereignty over territory in the West Bank, which is part of the occupied Palestinian territory. The Government would regard any such moves as a breach of international law and would consider an appropriate response to them at both national and international level.”
The Government position has not changed and I have been forthright in my public statements on the issue. The annexation by Israel of any part of the occupied Palestinian territory would be a clear violation of international law. It would have no legitimacy and could not be recognised or accepted by Ireland. Furthermore, it would be deeply damaging to the Two-State solution.
Ireland has been consistently vocal in its opposition to settlement expansion and annexation taking every opportunity to raise the issue in national and EU statements at the UN Human Rights Council. Last month Ireland raised the human rights impacts of Israeli settlement actions at the 46th session of the Council.
At the UN Security Council, Ireland has urged Israel to halt all continued settlement expansion, including in East Jerusalem and other sensitive areas. At the Security Council Quarterly debate on the Middle East in January, I underlined that continued settlement activity is not only illegal, but also erodes trust between Palestinians and Israelis.
I have engaged extensively with EU partners on the situation in the Middle East, with a view to encouraging strong EU messages, public and private, against settlements and annexation. EU Foreign Ministers met last year with the Israeli and Palestinian Foreign Ministers. The EU's position on the illegality of settlements has been consistently clear. I have also outlined my concerns about the threat of annexation and the growth of settlements in discussions with US representatives.
Ireland conveys our views on settlements to the Israeli authorities, both directly and through the EU. On 18 March I met the Israeli Ambassador and conveyed in the strongest terms my concerns on recent settlement announcements and associated infrastructure development. My officials work closely with the Office of the UN Special Coordinator on the Middle East and UN agencies on the ground to monitor and highlight these issues. Ireland’s Ambassador in Tel Aviv has raised the issue directly the Israeli authorities, and did so most recently on 19 April. Ireland's Representative Office in Ramallah has made a number of visits along with EU representatives to sensitive sites of concern in the West Bank.
I will continue to prioritise this issue, working closely with EU partners and countries in the region.