Varadkar travels to New York for UN peace summit

Taoiseach to seek support for Ireland’s efforts to be awarded place on security council

 An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas at Farmleigh, at the start of Mr Abbas’s short visit to Ireland. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas at Farmleigh, at the start of Mr Abbas’s short visit to Ireland. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is due to arrive in New York this evening ahead of next week’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly as Ireland continues its quest to win a seat on the UN security council.

Mr Varadkar will attend the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit on Monday in New York, but will also hold private bilateral meetings with key UN countries.

Ireland is seeking one of two of rotating seats on the 15-member security council for the 2021-2022 term, but faces tough competition from Canada and Norway.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney is due to travel to New York next week and will address the plenary session on Friday.

The visit by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to Dublin this weekend on his way to the annual UN gathering is unlikely to go unnoticed by the US administration, which has taken a tough stance towards the Palestinian leadership under Donald Trump. Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced it would close the Washington office of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. Mr Trump also controversially moved the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem this year.

The Palestinian leader met the Taoiseach, Mr Coveney and the president, Michael D Higgins, in Dublin on Saturday.

Mr Coveney said that Ireland may recognise the Palestinian state if peace talks with Israel continue to stagnate. The Government had already committed to a formal recognition as part of a peace process, but with talks at a standstill, Mr Coveney hinted that Ireland may recognise Palestine ahead of any peace agreement.

Though Ireland’s stance is likely to fall foul of the US administration and supporters of Israel at the UN, it is likely to be welcomed by other nations, such as Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa – an important constituency as Ireland seeks the UN votes required to secure the security council seat.

Mr Trump is scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with Israeli president Binyamin Netanyahu this week on the fringes of the UN gathering. Mr Abbas is due to address the assembly on Thursday where he is expected to call for a renewed commitment to a two-state solution for the conflict.

Mr Trump arrived in New York on Sunday and will stay in the city until Thursday.

Among the main focuses of this week’s gathering will be his speech to the general assembly on Tuesday.

There are indications that Mr Trump is likely to use it as an opportunity to address the Iranian nuclear threat. The US administration pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal earlier this year, a move that has had major ramifications for the Iranian economy.

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo said this weekend that Mr Trump was willing to meet Iranian president Hassan Rouhani at the UN meeting. However, his comments came before Iran blamed the US and its allies for an attack on an Iranian military parade on Saturday which killed at least 25 people.

Mr Trump is also due to hold bilateral meetings with British prime minister Theresa May, French president Emmanuel Macron and the leader of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, during the week. Mr Pompeo will meet the North Korean foreign minister.

There are no plans for the US president to meet the Taoiseach in New York, officials said.