Ireland asks EU to ensure aid to people of Gaza

Coveney warns of dangers of political vacuum in Middle East and urges EU engagement

Speaking after a Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, Tanaiste Simon Coveney has called for "more dialogue" between the EU and US over the Iran nuclear deal and Middle Eastern affairs. Video: EU Council


In the wake of the killings of more than 100 Palestinians on the Gaza-Israel border since March, Ireland has appealed to fellow EU member states to step up their engagement with the region.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday that the first priority should be ensuring that assistance gets into Gaza and the second focus should be “on trying to make progress on broader political solutions that can reduce tensions”.

He warned that “many of us have been predicting that in the absence of new political initiatives we will just see new cycles of violence driven by frustration and hardship”.

In a discussion on Gaza that Mr Coveney had sought, ministers reaffirmed their commitment to resolutions based on a two-state solution and their opposition to illegal settlements in Palestinian territory. And they are understood to have begun to explore new ways for the EU to assist in promoting dialogue. 

That could include, he said, assisting Egypt in its attempts to broker reconciliation between the Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas, and working with investment programmes for the Palestinian territories.

Mr Coveney said there was much concern about the funding gap in the UN’s Palestinian relief organisation Unrwa – in part the result of a US decision to defund the organisation. It is responsible for supporting basic healthcare and education needs for millions of Palestinians

But “there was recognition that while economic assistance is important, really what is required is a more focused political solution and at the moment we haven’t got that”, he said.

Gaza-Israel border

At least 121 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces, and thousands injured, since protests began at the Gaza-Israel border on March 30th.

EU leaders are deeply concerned about what the shape of a long-awaited peace plan from US president Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will look like.

Mr Coveney is travelling to Ramallah and Jordan next week on a fact-finding visits.  

The growing policy gulf between the EU and US – on the Iran deal, trade, Jerusalem and the whole theme of multilateralism – was a central part of ministers’ discussions, which saw strong confirmation of the EU’s willingness to go ahead with the Iran nuclear deal if Tehran remains committed.

Mr Trump has pulled the US out of the 2015 deal between Iran and a number of world powers. Under the deal, Iran signed up to curbs on its nuclear activities in return for an easing of sanctions.

The EU foreign ministers are reported to have advanced a number of means of combating US secondary sanctions against EU businesses trading with Iran. Mr Coveney said he got support for his call to adopt a more all-encompassing approach to dialogue and the transatlantic relationship.

“I made the point that rather than trying to deal with individual problems through separate dialogue and negotiation, whether it’s Syria, the Middle East peace process, Iran, or Yemen, that really we should be looking at a more comprehensive engagement between the EU and the US on the Middle East, more broadly and indeed on other issues like trade across the Atlantic,” he said.

Dialogue with US

“Instead of Iran resulting in less dialogue between the EU and the US . . . in my view it really calls for more dialogue and co-operation. If the EU and US are moving in different directions on multiple policy areas, that is not a recipe for stability.”

Following the May 20th presidential elections in Venezuela, which they described as lacking credibility and inclusiveness, the ministers called for new elections to be held “in accordance with internationally recognised democratic standards and the Venezuelan constitutional order”.

They warned that the EU was preparing new sanctions against Venezuela, likely to extend the list of travel bans on officials closely linked to the regime of President Nicolás Maduro.

And the ministers emphasised the importance of assisting a representative and credible election process in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.