Written answers

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Middle East Issues

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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151. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will push for more action from the United Nations and European Union to de-escalate the violence in the Middle East; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29760/14]

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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The present situation across the Middle East is one of deep concern, with serious open conflict in both Syria and now Iraq, and the possibility of violence increasing in Libya, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and elsewhere. All of these conflicts, and wider unrest across the region, have occupied a significant proportion of the agenda at both UN and EU level for a long time.

The most serious of these situations is the full scale civil war in Syria. Efforts to resolve this situation have been focussed primarily at the UN, including the activity of joint special envoys of the UN Secretary General and the Arab League. These efforts have so far been unsuccessful, due to the attitude of the parties in Syria, the inability of the Security Council to agree on how to resolve the conflict politically, and the influx of fighters, weapons and other support into the conflict from outside.

The crisis in Iraq has erupted suddenly from a growing security problem to a full blown conflict, with large areas of the country falling under the control of the radical ISIS movement and groups allied to it. I have reported recently to the Dáil on the discussions on Iraq at the Foreign Affairs Council on 23 June, and the EU position set out in the Conclusions of that Council. While there will clearly have to be some security response to the crisis by the Iraqi Government, Ireland has stressed that any such response must be measured and proportionate, and moreover that security measures will not succeed unless they are accompanied by a more inclusive political outreach than has been practised by the Iraqi Government thus far.

In recent weeks there has also been growing concern about the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, following a dreadful series of murders of Israeli and Palestinian youths, and what seemed to threaten a possible spiral of sectarian violence. This remains a serious concern, and one that we are watching closely. Statements by myself, by EU High Representative Ashton and by others, have all stressed the need for all parties to avoid inflaming the situation, leading to any further loss of life. Thankfully, and despite some emotional calls for revenge on both sides, there are indications that leaders in both communities are attempting to avoid such an escalation and, in particular, to agree a ceasefire in respect of Gaza. But this will remain a situation requiring close observation.

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