Dáil debates

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Middle East

11:50 am

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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102. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will address the concerns that exist in relation to the recent signing of a trilateral memorandum of understanding relating to the export of natural gas from Israel and Egypt to the European Union given Israel’s repeated breaches of international law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32923/22]

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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I ask the Minister for his response and that of the Government to the announcement in the past week from Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen that a trilateral agreement has been reached between the EU, Israel and Egypt to pipe gas from the occupied territories and from Israel to Europe, which contravenes both UN policy and EU policy. I seek the Minister's response to this announcement.

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Deputy for this question and am glad to be able to put a number of things on the record in respect of this agreement. A trilateral memorandum of understanding with Israel and Egypt on co-operation relating to trade, transport and the export of natural gas to the European Union was signed by the European Commission on 15 June in Cairo.

Ireland supports the agreement, which is an important and timely initiative that will strengthen energy security across the EU. The legal framework for the EU-Israel partnership is provided by the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which has been in force since 2000. Israel is part of the European Neighbourhood Policy and benefits from various regional programmes under the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument, including in the areas of environment and climate change.

Similarly, the foundation of the EU-Egypt relationship is the association agreement signed in 2004. An EU-Egypt Association Council was held on 19 June in Luxembourg, chaired by the Egyptian foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell.

It is important to acknowledge that the strong bilateral relationships between the EU and both Israel and Egypt do not prevent either the EU or the member states from voicing their opinions on issues of concern, including regarding human rights and international law, which we do regularly, as the Deputy is aware, with both partners bilaterally and in multilateral fora.

With respect to the territorial applicability of this trilateral agreement, it is established EU policy, reflecting UN Security Council Resolution 2334, that all agreements with Israel unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967. The inclusion of a territorial clause is also an important expression of the EU's support for international law and for a negotiated two-state solution. The territorial clause is included in an annexe to this trilateral agreement.

It is important to say that Ireland and the European Union remain firmly committed to a two-state solution in the Middle East. The region is part of the EU's neighbourhood. Helping our neighbours find a solution allowing them to co-exist peacefully is the right thing to do but it is also in our own interest. I am aware that there is a great deal of interest in this House on this issue.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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I thank the Minister for his reply. On 24 February, we saw Russia illegally breach international law with its brutal invasion of Ukraine. In 2014 we saw Russia annex the Crimea, which again was a grave breach of international law. There is a grave hypocrisy here, however, because the international reaction to the illegal invasion by Russia has seen sanctions being immediately imposed on the aggressor, and rightfully so too. The hypocrisy, however, is that we see a brutal occupation and a continued illegal and colonial settlement expansion on occupied territories by Israel and yet we do not see the same international response, reaction or sanctions being imposed on what is a continuous, brutal occupation in breach of international laws.

To say that Ireland supports this agreement flies in the face of the stance that this Chamber has taken last year, when we acknowledged that Israel has breached international law by annexing Palestinian lands. I seek the Minister's response on this issue.

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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As I said in my response to the Deputy, this agreement does make a distinction between occupied territory and Israel proper, for want of a better term. That is appropriate. As I said my reply, the legal framework underpinning the EU-Israel partnership is provided by the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which has been in force since 2000. Unlike Russia, Israel is part of the European Neighbourhood Policy.

Ireland has taken a consistent, clear, and firm line on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory both in this House and in international fora. Where necessary, we have been frank and forthright with Israel, including on illegal settlement activity, settler violence and violations of international law and that position will not change. Whether it is our contributions on the Security Council, a discussion in the Council of Europe or whether it is debate within the EU; we will continue to advocate for adherence to international law and UN resolutions.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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The Minister said recently that one of the greatest injustices in the world today is the occupation of Palestinian lands and the continued expansion of settlements. I completely agree with the Minister. Unfortunately, those words mean nothing when we are prepared to support an agreement such as this. We are rewarding the brutal oppressor of Palestinian people, the continued illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and the continued expansion of settlements.

We made a declaration, the first European country to do so, that Israel breached international law by annexing Palestinian lands. That was welcome. It was May last year. Today, the Minister is saying he welcomes and supports the agreement. We are rewarding the breachers and breakers of international law by signing this bilateral agreement. I contest that it is in contravention of the Security Council resolution and EU policy. It is shameful that we are supporting it. It is total hypocrisy.

12:00 pm

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Do I get a last word?

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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You do not, I am afraid. The clock is ticking.

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