There have been far too many deaths in Gaza during this latest outbreak of violence, including, tragically, the deaths of several children. In the conduct of military operations, constant care must be taken to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects. All feasible precautions must be taken to avoid, and in any event to minimize, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.This is particularly true in relation to military action in built-up areas. I also condemn the firing of rockets into Israel, which has recklessly endangered civilians in an indiscriminate way.
I was glad to hear reports of a ceasfire, which I would encourage all parties to respect. I acknowledge the efforts of Egypt and the UN in bringing about this de-escalation. I welcome the EU statement that was issued on 12 November in response to the violence.
I have given a high priority to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly the situation in Gaza, over the last two years, and have worked consistently to maintain an international focus on the issue, and support for the two state solution.
I regularly discuss this situation with my counterparts in the EU and the region. For example, in February of this year I convened a small gathering of Foreign Ministers in Dublin in February, to discuss the Middle East Peace Process, and how best to encourage a move towards a just and durable peace.
The Israel-Palestine conflict also featured in several of my discussions and meetings during the High-Level Week of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September. In all my meetings I stressed the need for any viable solution to this conflict to respect the long-standing and broadly agreed parameters for a two-state solution, which have full EU support.
Ireland has long worked to keep attention on Gaza in particular. Ireland contributes humanitarian assistance to alleviate the worst of this suffering, including through our support for UNRWA, which is a key provider of public services, health and education in the area. I have also initiated an Irish-funded solar power project in Gaza, which will be co-located with a waste water facility and will help improve water quality in the area, and thus also quality of life.
However, the roots of the problem in Gaza are political and cannot be solved by funding alone. What is needed is the lifting of the blockade, so that normal life and normal economic activity can resume. Gaza faces other challenges, including oppressive rule by Hamas, but the blockade dominates peoples’ lives in Gaza to such an extent that it is difficult to address other issues. I have raised the issue of the blockade with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
I will continue to ensure that the Middle East Peace Process and the situation in Gaza remain high on the international agenda.