Coveney had ‘frank and forthright’ discussions with Netanyahu

Tánaiste urges two-state solution for Israel and Palestine

 Tanaiste Simon Coveney is making his third visit to Israel and Palestine in the space of a year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Tanaiste Simon Coveney is making his third visit to Israel and Palestine in the space of a year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Tánaiste Simon Coveney held what were termed “frank and forthright” discussions with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday night at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.

According to Irish diplomatic sources, the one-hour discussions focused on Middle East peace efforts, the situation in Gaza and bilateral relations and follows criticism by Dublin of Israeli actions on the Gaza border where 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire over the last few months.

Mr Netanyahu, who also serves as Israel’s acting foreign minister, met Mr Coveney after returning from a three day European trip where he met the leaders of Germany, France and the United Kingdom for talks focused on Iran.

Ahead of a Thursday night’s meeting in Jerusalem Mr Coveney reiterated Irish support for the two-state solution.

After talks in Ramallah on Thursday afternoon with Palestinian officials, Mr Coveney urged the parties to make progress despite the recent challenges they have faced.

“My third visit to Palestine and Israel in less than a year is a reaffirmation of Ireland’s, and my own personal, commitment to and support for the two-state solution, which I believe offers the only prospect for a peaceful and secure future for both Israel and Palestine,” he said. “I heard how Israeli settlement expansion is continuing to erode the rights of the Palestinian people, and reduce the possibility of establishing a contiguous and sovereign Palestinian state.”

Some 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops on the Gaza border over the last 10 weeks and massive protests are planned for Friday, the final weekend of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Palestinian foreign minister Riad al Malki briefed Mr Coveney on developments in Gaza and the status of Jerusalem in light of the recent American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the transfer of its embassy to the holy city.

The two men also discussed ways to strengthen bilateral relations and promote economic ties, including the possibility of increasing scholarships for Palestinian students seeking to study in Ireland.

Mr al Malki, who was joined in the talks by Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Mohammad Shtayyeh, the head of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, thanked Ireland for its support for the Palestinian cause. He praised Mr Coveney for summoning the Israeli ambassador to protest the events on the Gaza border, and his support for the West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, faced with eviction by the Israeli authorities.

For his part, Mr Coveney stressed that Dublin’s positions on all issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are fully consistent with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, pointing out Ireland’s desire to see the Palestinians achieve reconciliation and unity.

In Jordan on Wednesday, on the first leg of his four-day Middle East trip, Mr Coveney met his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi and visited the Zaatari refugee camp to see first-hand how Jordan is coping with the influx of 1.3 million refugees from the Syrian civil war.

He praised Jordan’s “great humanitarian role” in hosting Syrian refugees and stressed the need for the international community to continue to provide the necessary support.

On Friday, on the final stop of his visit to the region, Mr Coveney will meet his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Christodoulides in Nicosia and with the special representative of the UN Secretary General and head of UNFICYP (United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus), Elizabeth Spehar.