Written Answers. - Official Engagements.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

168 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on his meeting with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mr Yasser Arafat. [19077/03]

I met the President of the Palestinian Authority at his headquarters in Ramallah on 26 June. This was one of a series of meetings I held with senior Palestinian figures as part of my regional working tour. I also met with Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath. The President recalled the excellent relations which the Irish and Palestinian peoples enjoy and his numerous previous encounters with Irish political leaders. He outlined the difficult circumstances in which the Palestinian Authority has to function and gave details of some of the damage caused by Israeli occupation forces. However, his tone was cautiously optimistic and he expressed the hope that implementation of the roadmap would proceed.

I took the opportunity to emphasise Ireland's support for the work of the Quartet and for the implementation of the roadmap, as well as our support for the newly-appointed Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, in his efforts to bring an end to violence. I stressed that the achievement of these objectives would require commitment and effort on both sides. I emphasised the need for President Arafat to give his full and unambiguous support to Prime Minister Abbas. I also pointed to the need for an end to all violence as a prerequisite for the implementation of the roadmap. The President accepted that the roadmap must be implemented and pointed to the progress his Cabinet had already made. I expressed my concern over the conditions under which President Arafat is being held. I assured President Arafat of the continuing concern of the Irish people for the people of Palestine and their hope to see a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis. We concluded my visit with a short joint press conference.