Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the situation in the Middle East
Minister Dermot Ahern T.D.:
I am very seriously concerned at the dangerous escalation of the situation in the Middle East. It is now in the interests of everyone in the region that all parties act urgently on the repeated calls to exercise restraint. They must cooperate with the diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis without further death and suffering. The Israeli Government has a particular and immediate responsibility in this regard.
The kidnapped Israeli soldiers in Gaza and Lebanon should be released immediately and unconditionally. There must also be an end to rocket attacks on Israeli territory. I condemn the killing of an Israeli citizen in rocket attacks from Lebanon today.
Israel has a legitimate right, and a duty, to defend its citizens, but not at the expense of the lives and the welfare of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. I condemn the deaths of large numbers of civilians in Israeli attacks on Lebanon and in Gaza. They are being caused by harshly disproportionate military action. I call on the Israeli Government to ensure that military operations are undertaken only in accordance with international law. It should end its blockade on Lebanon, stop the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and Gaza, and act urgently to avoid a humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Territories.
Our Embassies in the region are maintaining contact with Irish citizens in Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Territories to ensure their safety.
The current crisis will not be resolved by military means. Nor will the underlying problems of the Middle East. All Governments in the region have a duty now to act with great care and with a sense of responsibility. The Government and our EU partners will do everything possible to encourage political dialogue, and a return as soon as possible to meaningful negotiations for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region.
13 July 2006