Martin says Israel must be held to account over Gaza


MINISTER FOR Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has told United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon that Israel must be held to account for its actions during the recent conflict in Gaza.

During a meeting in New York yesterday morning, the two men discussed a United Nations board of inquiry report that accused Israel of "reckless disregard" for human life in using white phosphorus munitions that killed and injured Palestinians sheltering in a UN school in Gaza.

The report, which Israel has rejected as "outrageous" and "one-sided", also said Israel launched a "direct and intentional strike into UN premises" that killed three young men at a UN school in Asma.

"We said that participants in conflict situations must know that ultimately there's an international court of opinion and that one could not do what one wanted and that there would have to be culpability and follow-up," Mr Martin told The Irish Times. "We generally made the point that we felt the overall conflict in Gaza had undermined moderate Arab opinion, undermined the moderate Palestinian leadership and was not something that in any way contributed to the ultimate resolution of the situation in the Middle East."

The Minister and the secretary general also discussed Ireland's role in the peacekeeping mission in Chad, nuclear disarmament issues, climate change and Burma.

Mr Martin was in New York to accept an award on behalf of the Taoiseach at the American Ireland Fund's annual gala dinner. Despite the financial meltdown that has hit Wall Street profits, the dinner raised $2.3 million for Irish philanthropic causes.

Mr Martin said that, in conversations with US business figures, he made no attempt to hide the severe impact of the economic downturn in Ireland but sought to assure them that the Government was taking the right steps.

"We highlighted the fact that we'll be heading into a balance of payments surplus by the end of this year and the performance of our exports, although they've come down 5½ per cent, has been quite good relative to the UK, Germany and other countries.

"There are silver linings in the Irish economic cloud and we shouldn't be slow either in articulating those. The fundamental message was we believe we have it within our own capacity to come through this very, very difficult time."