US condemns ‘outrageous’ Ryanair flight diversion in talks with Coveney

Meetings with Biden’s highest-ranking figures involved talks on Israel and Northern Ireland

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney met with two of the Biden administration's highest-ranking figures on Monday evening at Shannon Airport for talks, which included discussions on the forced diversion of a Ryanair plane to Belarus on Sunday and the arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich.

United States secretary of state Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan met separately with Mr Coveney at the airport en route to the Middle East, where Mr Blinken is due to meet with the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and other regional leaders in the wake of last week's violence.

According to a statement from the US department of state, Mr Coveney and Mr Blinken condemned the "outrageous diversion of Ryanair Flight 4978 in Belarus" and discussed Ireland's role on the United Nations Security Council and the Iran nuclear deal negotiations.

It is understood that the recent outbreak of violence in the Middle East was also discussed – an issue on which Ireland and the US hold different perspectives. The Irish Government has been strongly critical of the UN Security Council's difficulty in formulating a joint statement on last week's flare-up of violence in the region due to US opposition.

Flight diversion

Mr Sullivan also discussed the growing international outrage over the Belarusian move to force a Ryanair plane to land in Minsk with Mr Coveney. According to the US National Security Council, they "condemned the forced diversion of a flight between two EU member states and the subsequent removal and arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich in Minsk by the Lukashenka regime, and they agreed to remain in close touch on an appropriate response."

Brexit and its impact on the Belfast Agreement and the situation in Northern Ireland was also discussed.

According to a spokeswoman for the National Security Council in Washington, both men “reaffirmed their commitment to protecting the gains of the Good Friday Agreement for all communities in Northern Ireland.”

As European Union leaders met in Brussels and agreed sanctions on Belarus, US president Joe Biden issued a statement late Monday night strongly condemning the forced landing and seizing of journalist Raman Pratasevich as a "direct affront to international norms".

“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms both the diversion of the plane and the subsequent removal and arrest of Mr Pratasevich. This outrageous incident and the video Mr Pratasevich appears to have made under duress are shameful assaults on both political dissent and the freedom of the press.”

He welcomed the EU’s actions against Belarus and said the US will “develop appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible, in close co-ordination with the European Union, other allies and partners, and international organisations.”