Minister Cowen expresses concern about developments in Middle East
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Brian Cowen, T.D. expressed concern at developments in the Middle East in recent days. The Minister described the resignation of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas as a major setback for the peace process. The Minister had held useful discussions with Mr Abbas in Ramallah last July on his visit to the region.
He urged the parties to show the maximum restraint and said it was extremely important that they should take no actions which would make a renewal of the ceasefire and a revival of the Roadmap more difficult.
In the Government's view, the expulsion of Yassir Arafat would lead to a political breakdown and further outbreaks of violence.
Arafat remains the elected leader of the Palestinian people and should play a central role in maintaining stability and in winning agreement for any future negotiated settlement.
The Minister congratulated Ahmed Korei on assuming the office of Palestinian Prime Minister and wished him every success.
The Minister went on to say that the Quartet Roadmap still offers the best hope of a peaceful settlement of this long- running conflict. The parties must act in accordance with their commitments under it and work to give effect to its provisions. The highest priority must be given to a renewal of the ceasefire.
It is a cause of great regret that friction between President Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas has contributed to Mr Abbas' resignation. We hope that this friction will not be repeated in the new Government and that the new Prime Minister will have the confidence and support of the Palestinian people, the members of the Quartet, and the international community. He should be empowered to take the necessary action against terrorist organisations.
Following the abandonment of the cease-fire, Hamas has been listed by the European Union as a terrorist organisation. If Hamas wishes to see its situation reviewed, it must stop its terrorist attacks. These are an affront to humanity and cannot possibly be justified. Hamas and the other terrorist organisations should understand that these attacks also do enormous damage to the Palestinian cause.
Nevertheless, the listing of Hamas as a terrorist organisation must not be seen as in any way approving the continuation of Israel's policy of targeted assassinations of Hamas activists. Such actions have served only to swell the numbers of those willing to use violence to further their aims. Furthermore, these actions have inflicted heavy casualties on innocent civilians.
The Peace Process must be comprehensive if it is to be successful. The interests of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan cannot be ignored. Furthermore, all the countries of the region must play their part in preventing terrorist activities.
The immediate steps to be taken are:
· Renewal of the cease-fire and an end to terrorist activities
· An end to terrorism
· An end to targeted assassinations
· Determined action by the Palestinian Authority to prevent terrorist activity
· An end to building settlements and the construction of the security wall on Palestinian territory
· An early meeting of the Quartet to confirm the continuing validity of the Roadmap as the only way forward.
Commenting on the report published yesterday by Amnesty International entitled Surviving under siege - The impact of movement restrictions on the right to work, which examines the impact of Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and the suffering caused by the construction of the Israeli ‘security fence', the Minister recalled that Ireland has called on the Israeli authorities to ease restrictions on numerous occasions. He said that Amnesty's useful and detailed report shows the dreadful human cost of the futile policy of trying to ensure security through walls rather than resolute action for peace.