Written answers

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Foreign Conflicts

6:00 pm

Photo of Pearse DohertyPearse Doherty (Donegal South West, Sinn Fein)
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Question 24: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will advise which way he will vote should Palestine seek recognition at the United Nations for a Palestinian state this September, if Palestine's preferred option of resuming direct negotiations with Israel to achieve the state of Palestine through a comprehensive peace agreement does not materialise before then. [20090/11]

Photo of Luke FlanaganLuke Flanagan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent)
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Question 42: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland will vote for a Palestinian state at the UN conference in September; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19981/11]

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 24 and 42 together.

I refer the Deputy to my answer to the priority questions on this subject taken earlier. The continuing Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territories is at the heart of the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict. The issues which have been critical for Israel for most of its history – the existence of the State of Israel and its right to live in peace and security – have for many years now been accepted in principle by most Arab and Palestinian opinion. It is the continuing Occupation, and the creation and growth of illegal settlements on the occupied lands, which are now the major obstacles to peace. I consider it an urgent priority objective, both for Ireland and the EU, to help achieve the end of the Occupation and the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, living in peace alongside Israel. This has been the consistent view of Irish Governments since 1980. It is indeed long overdue. It remains my view that there should be a State of Palestine, and very soon.

It is widely expected, if the negotiations process remains effectively suspended, that the Palestinians will in the autumn seek some form of recognition at the UN for Palestinian statehood. They have made clear that for them this is very much a second choice, and that what they really want to be engaged in in the autumn is serious negotiations with Israel to achieve their objective of statehood through a comprehensive agreement. They are, as I am, more interested in achieving a state that exists in reality, rather than only in a UN Resolution, which will not of itself bring that state about. It is also important to note that the Palestinians themselves have not yet decided exactly what, if any, action they will seek to take at the UN. This could range from full entry as a UN member state, to a General Assembly Resolution which could take many forms. Some of these possibilities would principally involve the Security Council, of which Ireland is not currently a member.

There is thus no proposal on the table on which we can take a view, although our general support for the establishment of a Palestinian State is well known. In discussions at EU level, however, I have agreed with the view that assuring either side now of our support would be premature, and simply reduce the incentive on them to return to real talks, which is the more important objective. As I have stated in answer to previous Questions, if the issue of recognition arises at the United Nations in the autumn, the Government will consider Ireland's response very carefully. We will take into account factors such as Ireland's long-standing support for the achievement of a Palestinian State, the exact terms and nature of what may be proposed, the positions of EU partners and other friends, the progress on the wider peace process, and our assessment of the practical impact of any such decision.

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