Coveney says construction of settlements by Israel causing ‘greater damage’ to peace

The Tánaiste spoke about Gaza in his speech at the United Nations general assembly in New York

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney addresses the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York on Friday. Photograph: Angela Weiss/ AFP /Getty Images

The construction of settlements by Israel is “causing ever-greater damage to the prospects of peace” in the Middle East, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.

In an address to the United Nations general assembly in New York on Friday evening, Mr Coveney called on the United Nations and the United States in particular to help broker a peace deal in the region.

While he said that the current situation “serves the interests of neither people” in the region, he added: “I am also conscious that the burden of being under occupation is the heavier one.”

He said that the situation in Gaza is “simply untenable,” as he called on the 10-year blockade to end.


Mr Coveney raised concerns with US officials about the United States’ policy in the Middle East earlier this week. On Friday he met with deputy secretary of State John Sullivan where the situation in the Middle East was discussed.

Mr Coveney met with representatives from approximately 30 countries over recent days on the fringes of the annual UN General Assembly meeting in a bid to gain support for Ireland’s bid to secure a rotating seat on the UN Security Council in 2021-2022. A vote on the rotating seats on the UN security council for the period 2021-2022 will be taken in June 2020.

Speaking earlier this week, he said that while Ireland was optimistic about its chances, the country faces tough competition for the sought-after position.

“We face a very significant race to be elected on to the UN security council,” he said. “There are three countries for two places. Norway and Canada are the other two countries. They’re big spenders and big countries, but I’m still confident that Ireland can win.”

In a wide-ranging speech to the assembly on Friday evening, Mr Coveney highlighted Ireland’s experience in the field of peace-building, development aid, and human rights policy.

“Sometimes it is the smallest states that have the answers to our biggest problems,” he said.

Stressing Ireland’s commitment to multilateralism, and its own history as a colonised power, Mr Coveney said Ireland’s membership of the UN has played a “major part in our development.”

He said that while Ireland does not wish to see “any diminution in the role played by the UN’s leading actors,” there should be a “place on the stage for everyone.”

But he criticised the current structure and scope of the UN Security Council. “Many areas of the world are either insufficiently represented in the Security Council or not at all represented,” he said, citing the under-representation of African countries in particular.

He also took issue with the Security Council veto, whereby any of the five permanent members of the Security Council can block decisions, arguing that, far too often, it results in the “shocking abandonment of some of the most vulnerable people on earth.”

Noting that this year marked the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s peace-keeping programmes, he said that more than 500 Irish personnel were now deployed on UN peace-keeping missions around the world.

Citing Ireland’s bid for the 2021-2022 seat on the Security Council, Mr Coveney concluded his speech by stating that Ireland brings “no partisan agenda to the table,” but is there to “serve the wider good and to support the UN and the multilateral system.”

“We Irish are by nature bridge-builders. We listen to all sides and work to build collective solutions to our global challenges. We are committed to hearing and heeding the voices of all, to forge consensus and common purpose.”

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent