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Minister Flanagan address at the International Conference in Support of the Reconstruction of Gaza

Funding, Ireland, Irish Aid, Minister Charles Flanagan, Speech, Ireland, Middle East and North Africa, 2014

Your Excellencies President al-Sisi, President Abbas, Secretary General Ban, other distinguished guests.

I am honoured to represent Ireland at this important conference and I applaud the Governments of Egypt and Norway for convening it.

The recent conflict in Gaza has been a disaster, the third – and the worst – in only five years. While neither side may have wished it, the conflict followed inevitably from the policies they pursued. Nobody won, nobody achieved their objectives, and innocent civilians above all lost. This important meeting is one part of a process that must look both at what needs to be done after the conflict, but also how we can avoid this happening again.

The high level of civilian casualties, including children, and the numbers made homeless and displaced, shocked the people of Ireland. The destruction compounded an already very grave situation. As a longstanding supporter of the Palestinian people and of a two-State solution, Ireland provides an average of €10 million per year in development and humanitarian assistance. As an immediate response to the latest Gaza Crisis, we provided, in July, a contribution of €500,000 to UNRWA’s Emergency Flash Appeal for humanitarian assistance.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire and it is clear that significant resources will be required to meet both immediate needs and longer term recovery assistance and reconstruction. Today, Ireland is pledging an additional sum of €2.5 million Euro (approximately US$3 million) towards the humanitarian response in Gaza. €500,000 will be provided in immediate humanitarian support for UNRWA through the UN Gaza Crisis Appeal, bringing our total humanitarian response to €1 million, and €2 million will be provided to the Palestinian Authority and key UN partners for longer term recovery assistance.

The National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan, presented here today, has clearly been developed with the laudable intention of moving efforts in Gaza beyond immediate relief and towards longer term development. I also want to welcome the unified efforts of all Palestinians behind President Abbas to plan for Gaza’s reconstruction and to work to end the divisions which have existed among Palestinians for too long.

But we are all deeply conscious that we have been here before, that reconstruction has been begun before, only to end in further destruction. We need to be able to see that our investment for the people of Gaza is going to last, and not just produce tomorrow’s targets.

The process begun in the 26 August ceasefire must continue, and both sides must work with the Egyptian mediators to address the underlying issues and find a new path in Gaza. This must mean an end to attacks from Gaza on Israel, but also an end to the unjust blockade which has endured now for seven years. This should begin with a real opening of supplies of materials needed for reconstruction, including of essential infrastructure such as water, sewage and power. Every effort must be made to ensure that humanitarian goods and personnel are guaranteed safe and unimpeded access to Gaza. But it must then continue to the end of senseless restrictions on ordinary economic and human life. The only way to reduce support for militarism among people in Gaza is to allow them to work and export their produce, to find jobs, to feel part of the wider Palestinian people and the wider world.

More broadly, Gaza is part and parcel of the wider problems of Israel and Palestine. The lesson Gaza teaches us is that when these problems are not tackled and resolved, they become more bitter, harder to resolve, and descend inevitably towards violence. Only a political process to bring about the urgent realisation of a negotiated two-State solution can end this, and secure the future of both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. I urge political leaders on both sides to commit themselves genuinely to this process and to avoid all actions which might impede the prospects for peace. Palestinians and Israelis should also always remember that they do not want for friends – in Europe, in the US and here in the Arab world – who are more than ready to help them in achieving the noble goal of peace.

ENDS
Press Office
12 October 2014