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Statement by Minister Coveney at UNSC Meeting on the Middle East, Including the Palestinian Question

Mr President,


Thank you for convening today’s meeting, which Ireland strongly supported. We have already waited too long to express ourselves in an open meeting of this Council and the current cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, and the world is watching and listening to every word that we say. 


Thank you too to the Secretary General for your presence and for your important remarks, and Special Coordinator Wennesland for your briefing also.


I would like to thank the Palestinian Foreign Minister and the Israeli Ambassador for their remarks. Let me also acknowledge the remarks of my colleagues from Jordan and Egypt.


We gather after a week of deadly escalating violence, in which so many innocent Palestinians and Israelis have lost their lives in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and across Israel.


Our thoughts are with their families, and all of those whose lives have been blighted by hatred and yet more violence.


Every day we delay in assuming our responsibility at this Council, is another day lost in saving innocent lives.


So let us send a clear and united message from this Council today that the cycle of violence and bloodshed needs to end now.


I echo the Secretary-General’s calls for de-escalation and I reiterate his call for an immediate end to violence. 


The last week is the latest tragic cycle in a conflict whose recurrence shames all of us at the United Nations and as an international community. 


The violence, trauma and killing reminds us again of the consequences of our collective inertia and enduring failure to achieve a political resolution to this conflict.


We in Ireland know like so many other countries that the most intractable conflicts require the greatest collective response.


This Council must exercise its responsibility. It should start today by adding its voice to the calls around the world for an end to violence, and progress towards a just and lasting peace.


Mr. President,


Responsible leadership on all sides must now urgently work to reduce tensions and prevent further attacks.


We call today on all parties to refrain from violent and provocative acts, including rockets and incendiary devices launched from Gaza into Israel by a terrorist organisation, indiscriminately targeting civilian populations and infrastructure.


However, Israel must abide by the provisions of International Humanitarian Law, particularly in relation to the Protection of Civilians, including when exercising the right to self-defence.


Ireland calls on Israel to ensure that its security forces act in full respect for the principles of proportionality, distinction and precaution in the conduct of military operations. Accountability must be ensured for the actions of the Israeli security forces.


Mr. President,


The plight of children in this conflict is reprehensible. Over 55 children from as young as 6 months have now lost their lives and many others are missing, as UNICEF has confirmed again this morning.


In addition to the tragedy of these killings and injuries, no child, anywhere, should have to endure the trauma of an onslaught of rockets and missiles. All violations against children must end, including and in particular attacks on schools. Children must never be made prisoners of history, and that is exactly what is happening right now.


Humanitarian access into the Gaza must be ensured, especially through the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings. Israel, as the occupying power, is duty bound to ensure unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance. 


The United Nations and humanitarian partners must be permitted to bring in vital food, fuel, and medical supplies and to deploy humanitarian personnel. We urge all parties to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel.


All parties must adhere to international humanitarian law and for respect human rights.


The destruction of homes and damage to vital infrastructure such as roads, electricity networks and water installations is unacceptable.


I am very concerned that UNRWA buildings were damaged during military operations in Gaza. UNRWA plays a vital humanitarian role in Gaza and needs to be protected and never targeted.


I pay tribute today to the dedicated staff of UNRWA and other UN agencies and NGOs who provide critical services and support even in the most harrowing of circumstances.


I also emphasise the importance of media freedom and the essential role played by journalists and the press in reporting on conflicts like this one. I condemn in the strongest terms yesterday’s strike which destroyed media outlets. Freedom of expression and information and the work of journalists must be protected without exception.


Ireland remains gravely concerned at the clashes and violence in East Jerusalem, including around the Holy Sites and across the West Bank. We are deeply disturbed by the reported use of live ammunition by Israeli Security Forces in the context of protests and clashes.  There is a right to peaceful protest and that does need to be upheld.


This week has also seen tragic incidents of inter-ethnic violence, intimidation, arson and even loss of life in the mixed cities of Israel.  Such clashes serve the interests of no one, except those bent on exclusion, violence, revenge and extremism.


We must acknowledge that the current escalation has not happened in isolation.


Our focus now is on de-escalation and avoiding any more civilian casualties, but we must also look beyond and ask ourselves: how do we move past the current recurring cycles of violence?


We cannot return to business as usual after this. That is simply no longer an option in my view.


We cannot return to the flouting of international law, with the expansion of illegal settlements into occupied Palestinian territory


We cannot return to forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank.


We cannot return to demolition of Palestinian property, settler violence and intimidation.


We must acknowledge that these actions, occurring at a rate unacknowledged for many years, are a source of legitimate grievance among the Palestinian people and undermine prospects for peace and reconciliation. 


Bridging the divide requires that all sides live up to their commitments and comply with international law and obligations.


Human rights, including fundamental rights of freedom of expression and association, need to be respected even in difficult times.


Serious and sustained efforts are urgently needed to reinvigorate and renew credible negotiations to establish a genuine political horizon leading to a two-State solution in line with UN resolutions and international law.


This Council must play its part in that effort. 


Mr President, two million people living in the Gaza Strip cannot endure another war. They have suffered far too much for far too long already.


Years of illegal blockade have resulted in extreme hardship including poverty and food insecurity.


Cycles of violence and now the COVID-19 pandemic have further eroded coping mechanisms leading to a mental health crisis which particularly impacts on women and children.


Civilians in Gaza have nowhere to flee. They are a population under siege; not just now, in the midst of this cycle of violence, but consistently, and this has got to end.


For their sake, and for the sake of all Palestinians and Israelis alike, we demand an immediate end to the violence, which poisons their future.


We have a collective responsibility here, today, to say that with one strong voice.


Thank you President.

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