I propose to take Questions Nos. 116, 117 and 121 together.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be a high priority both for the European Union and for me personally. It has been discussed at many recent meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council, and EU Ministers discussed the issue with Prime Minister Netanyahu in the margins of the December 2017 Foreign Affairs Council, and with President Abbas in the margin of the January 2018 Council.
At present, prospects for a re-start of negotiations centre on the proposals 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. I have encouraged my EU colleagues to take a similar approach. Unfortunately however, the US opening of its Embassy in Jerusalem makes bringing the relevant parties together around a peace initiative more difficult. I have conveyed this view to both US and Israeli interlocutors.
I am also aware of the need to support Palestinians affected by this long-running conflict, not just in Gaza and the West Bank, but throughout the region, where agencies such as UNRWA do vital work. To date in 2018, Ireland has provided €4.25 million for UNRWA’s Programme Budget, which supports services and assistance to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees, including in Gaza.
I have paid particular attention in my work to the problems of Gaza, seeking both to maintain international focus on the issue and to work on solutions to change the dynamic there and to begin to improve conditions. The appalling events of yesterday and recent weeks, which have seen very significant numbers killed or injured along Gaza’s borders, underlines the urgency of these efforts.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue to be a focus of my work, and I hope to visit the region again next month.