Flanagan renews call for ceasefire in Gaza in Seanad debate

Fianna Fáil’s Averil Power calls for EU to impose trade sanctions against Israel

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said he had spoken over the phone to UN secretary general Ban ki-Moon about the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said he had spoken over the phone to UN secretary general Ban ki-Moon about the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Thu, Jul 31, 2014, 17:02

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said the United Nations secretary general and himself have agreed that security issues and an end to the Gaza blockade must be addressed following a ceasefire in the conflict.

Mr Flanagan said he spoke at length to Ban ki-Moon by phone earlier this week and praised his strong leadership in articulating the very great anger and anguish which people felt about what was happening in Gaza.

The Minister said he had condemned the appalling attacks on UN and civilian facilities in Gaza and they agreed both sides had to cease violating international law.

“Secretary general Ban briefed me on all the intensive efforts in which he has been engaged in recent days to secure a ceasefire,’’ Mr Flanagan added.

“Regrettably, all these efforts have largely fallen on deaf ears to date, though the secretary general was not deterred and believed that some form of extended humanitarian truce would eventually be secured.’’

Mr Flanagan, who was opening a special Seanad debate on Gaza and Ukraine today, said the “unjust’’ blockade imposed on Gaza had served only to impoverish the territory and its people and promote extremism.

“The blockade of Gaza has to be ended,’’ said Mr Flanagan. “So, too, must the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas and other militants including Islamic Jihad and also the building of tunnels for the purpose of attacking Israelis.’’

The Minister said there had been much comment on Ireland’s decision to abstain, along with other EU partners, in the vote on the Palestinian resolution at the UN Human Rights Council special session seeking the establishment of a commission of inquiry into events in Gaza.

“One day after the adoption of important EU conclusions on the peace process, it would have sent a very negative signal and undoubtedly weakened EU leverage if we could not agree on a common response to the resolution,’’ he added.

Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power called for economic sanctions against Israel in the debate.

“The EU must immediately suspend its trade agreements with Israel and impose economic sanctions on the country until it ends the occupation of Palestine,’’ she added. “Europe should also ban outright the importation of all goods from the illegal settlements.’’

Ms Power said she was shocked last week when the Government chose to abstain in a UN vote to establish an inquiry into Israel’s war crimes in Gaza. “As a country, we have always prided ourselves on using our voice internationally to promote human rights and stand up for the oppressed,’’ she added. “Last week at the UN, we were shamefully silent.’’

David Norris (Ind) said the United Nations should accept full and permanent responsibility for the welfare of the people of Gaza.

“And if that means an international force going in, that’s fine,’’ he added. He said Ireland should consider using its civilian services like the ESB to rebuild the only power station in Gaza.

Mr Norris said America’s role was shameful, adding that it provided a “protective shadow’’ for Israel in its international piracy. “And I condemn President Obama for his utter inaction,’’ he added.

Jim Walsh (FF) said they were witnessing the third outbreak of conflict in Gaza in recent years. He said had no hesitation in condemning Hamas for the rocket attacks on Israeli territory which endangered civilians.

He added that the Israeli bombing of Gaza, and the slaughter of children and innocent civilians, in playgrounds, beaches, homes, schools and hospitals, was deplorable. “I think it is a stain on the Israeli state,’’ he added. “There is no justification and there are no excuses.’’