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Tánaiste Begins Visit to Middle East

Diplomatic Relations, Press Releases, Middle East and North Africa, 2012

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr. Eamon Gilmore, T.D., today begins a four day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. During his visit, the Tánaiste will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Foreign Minister Riad Malki and, in Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.

The Tánaiste will visit Gaza on 27 January where he will meet with the Commissioner General of UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency), Filippo Grandi, and visit a number of UNRWA-operated schools and projects.   He will also meet with a number of non-governmental organisations dealing with human rights issues in Gaza as well as with local business men and women in order to hear about the continuing impact on the Gaza economy of the Israeli blockade.

Commenting on his visit, the Tánaiste stated:  “The search for peace in the Middle East remains a core objective of Irish foreign policy.   In my discussions with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, I will be underlining Ireland’s and the EU’s continuing strong desire to see substantive direct peace talks begin as soon as possible.”

“We know well from our own experience how difficult the process of making peace can be, particularly taking the first crucial steps.  It is encouraging that both sides have held a series of direct talks under the welcome auspices of the Jordanian government in recent weeks, in follow up to the framework for peace talks set out by the International Quartet last September.”

“However, as I discussed with High Representative Ashton and my EU counterparts in Brussels earlier this week, we now need to build on this promising opening and encourage both sides to demonstrate real leadership and commitment to the process.    In particular, there must be genuine efforts to build confidence on both sides and a willingness to desist from any actions, such as continuing settlement expansion, which impede the overall prospects for achieving  a comprehensive and lasting peace, based on the two-State solution.”

“Against the backdrop of the historic political changes underway within the region, I believe in the hugely transformative and positive effects for the Middle East and North Africa of a comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace agreement and this is a point which I will be emphasising in my  discussions.”

“I also very much welcome the opportunity to visit Gaza and see for myself the serious impact which Israel’s policy of blockade continues to have on the ordinary people and economy of Gaza. I look forward to meeting with the Commissioner General of UNRWA and hearing about the vital lifeline which UNRWA operations represent to the vast majority of people in Gaza. I hope to form a better view of the overall situation on the ground in Gaza which can then inform my subsequent discussions with Prime Minister Netanyahu and members of his government.”