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Written answers

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Israeli Settlements

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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107. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has raised at the EU Foreign Affairs Council the intensive extension of Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights; if the difficulties in the Golan are given active consideration in the Middle East peace initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43116/17]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I am aware of the extension of Israeli settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan, and of the broader difficulties faced in the region, which are certainly a cause for concern. Officials from my Department have recently met with NGOs operating in the Golan, and I will continue to monitor the situation closely. In the occupied Syrian Golan, as in the West Bank, the introduction and settlement of communities of the occupying power, to alter the demography of the area, is illegal under international law. The process of establishing settlements inevitably involves violations of the rights of the occupied population, through seizure of their land, discriminatory treatment and other restrictions. Tactics including planning laws, zoning, military use, national parks etc. are used by the Israeli authorities to advance this process under a cloak of legality. None of these measures can alter the fact that the whole process is illegal. The Government has consistently and repeatedly conveyed these concerns to the Israeli authorities, and highlighted them in our interventions at EU, UN and international level. In addition, I raised these concerns directly in the context of my visit to Israel and Palestine in July, which was the first visit I made outside Europe after taking office. I will continue to avail of every appropriate opportunity to pursue these issues.

Ireland’s concerns over these policies are most acute in relation to the West Bank, where the continued construction of settlements on occupied land is dangerously undermining the prospects for a peace agreement and the establishment of a Palestinian state, and this has been the focus of my international engagement on the settlements issue. By contrast, it is generally acknowledged that any comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arab states will involve the return of the Golan area to Syria. This does not lessen the obligation on Israel to treat the community there in accordance with international law so long as the occupation remains in being.

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