Tánaiste hosts Dublin meeting to discuss Middle East peace process

Talks included foreign ministers and others including League of Arab States’ secretary general

 The delegates with Tánaiste Simon Coveney. They paid a visit to President Michael D Higgins in Áras an Uachtaráin on Monday evening, and were then greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Farmleigh House

The delegates with Tánaiste Simon Coveney. They paid a visit to President Michael D Higgins in Áras an Uachtaráin on Monday evening, and were then greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Farmleigh House

 

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has hosted a “retreat-style” meeting with foreign ministers from nine countries in an effort to explore new ways to reignite the stalled Middle East peace process.

The conference took place in Farmleigh House over two days involving six European countries, Jordan and Egypt and a representative from the Palestinian Authority as well as the secretary general of the Arab League. However, Israel did not participate in the event.

In a short statement issued after the meeting, the Government said the group had discussed the present state of the Middle East peace process.

“The group shares a vision for peace and re-emphasised the centrality of the resolution of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-state solution for regional peace and security,” it said.

The conference was private and not publicised in advance.

‘Exploring thinking’

Speaking in advance of the conference, Mr Coveney said the conference originated in a conversation he had with Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al Maliki in June 2018 about how Ireland could be helpful to the Palestinian Authority in terms of “exploring thinking around the Middle East peace process”. He also said the private nature of the conference could allow more meaningful progress.

“Ireland has for some time positioned itself as a country that is deeply interested in the Middle East peace process,” said Mr Coveney. “We have backed resolutions in the United Nations calling for dramatically increased funding to the Palestinian Authority. I have been there, in Palestine and Israel, three times.”

He said he wanted to position Ireland as a real influencer “to make real things happen rather than be seen to be a protester on the sidelines. That means bringing key people together [in Dublin]. Sometimes politicians speaking privately together is best in an effort to bring things forward with no fanfare.”

In addition to Mr Maliki, the meeting was attended by foreign ministers from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Jordan, Sweden and Spain, as well as the Arab League.

Working dinner

The delegates paid a brief visit to President Michael D Higgins in Áras an Uachtaráin on Monday evening, and were then greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Farmleigh House.

The conference included a working dinner on Monday night and continued until Tuesday afternoon.

According to the brief statement, the ministers emphasised support for a comprehensive peace that would meet the legitimate rights and aspiration of both parties: the right of Palestinians to freedom and statehood; and the right of Israelis to security and regional acceptance.

“The ministers expressed alarm at the deterioration of the situation. They urged international mobilisation and serious and effective negotiations to create a political horizon for positive momentum so as to counter disillusionment and radicalisation.

“Participants reiterated support for every credible effort to get such serious negotiations started. The ministers are committed to do everything they can to make a positive contribution to these efforts,” the statement concluded.

Low point

Mr Coveney, speaking in Brussels before returning to Dublin for the conference, said “the last 18 months has been a disaster for the peace process” and added that relationships between the Palestinians on the one hand, and the US and Israel on the other hand, were at a low point.

Mr Coveney said it was not an EU-Arab summit but was instead an “influential representative group of opinion formers representative a broad perspective”.

He said it was not an anti-Israeli alliance rather an “informed and confidential discussion of how we find ways of progressing a peace negotiation again which seems a long way off at the moment”.