Kerry asks for further Irish aid in Syria and Iraq, says Flanagan

Flanagan meets top American diplomat on first US visit as foreign affairs minister

US secretary of state John Kerry has urged Ireland to continue providing humanitarian aid in Iraq and Syria for people affected by the rise of the Islamic State militants, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said.  Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

US secretary of state John Kerry has urged Ireland to continue providing humanitarian aid in Iraq and Syria for people affected by the rise of the Islamic State militants, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

US secretary of state John Kerry has urged Ireland to continue providing humanitarian aid in Iraq and Syria for people affected by the rise of the Islamic State militants, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said.

Mr Flanagan said he met Mr Kerry on last night on his visit to the United Nations general assembly in New York and America’s top diplomat told him he “was most anxious” that Ireland’s humanitarian aid continues as the US builds international support for its plan to defeat the radical group.

“It is not expected that we will be part of any military alliance and John Kerry understands that full well and appreciates the Irish position. That is not to say that we cannot make a contribution from a humanitarian point of view,” he said.

Mr Flanagan said he and Mr Kerry did not discuss the use of Shannon by American military personnel flying through Ireland to the Middle East.

Following a meeting with UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous, Mr Flanagan said that Ireland was committed to maintaining peacekeeping troops in Golan Heights, the area between Syria and Israel where tensions have risen due to the presence of IS fighters.

He acknowledged the mission was “a matter of great difficulty” but said that Ireland would continue to post troops there for the UN.

“Our colleagues in the UN are also very appreciative of our role. They acknowledge our expertise, our experience working in conjunction with the other states and our commitment will continue into the future,” he said.

Attending the 69th general assembly in New York, the Minister ratified a protocol that strengthens the rights of children, creating a route to a UN committee that can hear complaints about violations of childrens’ rights when domestic remedies have been exhausted.

He also co-hosted with the Netherlands, Mexico and three major UN agencies a discussion on a UN campaign to eradicate hunger called Delivering Zero Hunger.

He signed the UN Zero Hunger Declaration at the meeting.

On his first trip to the US as Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Flanagan will travel on to Washington on a seven-day mission to the US covering trade and business, US immigration reform and the Northern Irish Peace Process.

He said it was “regrettable” that it took the Obama administration more than a year and a half to appoint a new US ambassador to Ireland but hoped to meet Missouri lawyer Kevin O’Malley, who has been approved for the role, soon after he was officially sworn in as ambassador next Tuesday.

“I also expect that he will show a deep interest in affairs pertaining to Northern Ireland, ” he said.

Mr Flanagan said he expected the US government and lawmakers on Capitol Hill to continue to work towards a lasting peace in the North and that their “support, help and assistance remains.”

He described the dispute in the Northern Ireland Executive over budget cuts proposed by Westminster as “a worrying issue” but one the executive had to solve themselves, urging the First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to “do their utmost” to resolve the issue.

“I am very conscious that there is a disengagement, that matters are not working in the manner in which they should,” he said.

The Minister said he hoped that Congress would introduce legislation to change immigration laws to benefit the illegal Irish living in the US and to introduce a new visa for more working Irish to move to the country.

He will continue to meet Democrats and Republicans despite the politically sensitive issue being shelved ahead of November’s Congressional elections.

“I would hope that that some form of positive action could be taken, notwithstanding the sensitive and delicate matter of numbers in the House [of Representatives],” he said, referring to Republican control in the lower house of Congress where the party has blocked a Senate immigration reform bill.

Among the people Mr Flanagan will meet in Washington will be president Obama’s advisor on immigration issues Cecelia Munoz, the US trade representative Mike Froman who is working on the EU-US transatlantic trade agreement and Northern Ireland advisers to vice president Joe Biden.

He will meet Congressman Joseph P Kennedy, grandnephew of president John F Kennedy and a number of State Department officials.

He will also attend a US Chamber of Commerce business breakfast and mark the 90th anniversary of US-Ireland diplomatic relations at a reception.