Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan (third from left) and officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade discussing Gaza with the Palestinian Ambassador together with the Ambassadors of Morroco, and Saudi Arabia, and representatives from the Embassies of Egypt and UAE.
As told by Fine Gael’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, to Rachel English on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland earlier.
Rachel English: “Why did Ireland abstain?”
Charlie Flanagan: “Well there were two issues involved here. Firstly, due to the urgency. We wanted a more swift and direct response to using existing and current structures to the appalling situation and upsurge of violence, resulting from this conflict. So there was the time issue involved, we didn’t think it was appropriate to allow for a new, further investigation, having regard to current existing UN structures and secondly, we’d problems with the text. We wanted to include all violent acts on all sides, including Hamas and other militant groups in the region. We referred to the fact that the resolution failed to recognise the right of Israel as a democratic state in the region to defend itself and we worked quite intensely, all day long with, and in partnership, with our European colleagues and others to try and bring about a balanced resolution . That didn’t prove possible. And there are times, in the context of a four or five-page document when it isn’t possible to perfect the text in a way that we would have thought.”
English: “You talk there about using the current structures. But isn’t the problem at the moment that the normal approach isn’t working. We saw that yesterday with the shelling of a UN school. Something a senior UN official described to us earlier here as “a trend”.”
Flanagan: “That’s very true and that’s why I’ve clearly and consistently condemned the upsurge in violence and, on Tuesday, at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, we played a very important and active role in ensuring that the European Union, with a voice of 28 states, in unison for the first time, condemning the very high level of casualty rate, resulting from actions and is important in the context of ensuring that we’re going forward firmly within the European Union and firmly within the UN. And there are times when we won’t get what we’d like out of these discussions.”
English: “But are you getting anything at the moment. Isn’t the EU being ignored?”
Flanagan: “Well what Ireland is doing, on the one hand, bi-laterally, and on the other hand, through the UN and the EU, it’s doing everything in our power to ensure that we can halt this cycle of violence. Last week I met with the Israeli ambassador. I conveyed to him, in no uncertain terms, the deep concern on the parts of the Irish people at the appalling level of casualties in Gaza. Yesterday I had the opportunity of meeting face to face with representatives of the Arab League. I had a first-hand engagement with the Palestinian representative. I spoke to the Egyptian embassy. It’s important that we, as a neutral country, with significant influence do what we can in order to mould this process because the absolute priority is a ceasefire and an end to all violence.”
Flanagan: “We have a recurring problem in Gaza, every few years now and this crisis, however appalling as it is, it’s not the first such crisis and what we have to do is to hope that this is going to be the last one and that the underlying issues which contribute to the violence can be dealt with…”
Rachel: “Many people who would normally be loathe to criticise Israel have been appalled by what they’ve witnessed over the past couple of weeks.”
Flanagan: “That’s true but I believe it must be in the context of the right of Israel as a democratic state to defend itself and to defend its territory. But we in Ireland have to be clear-sighted here because our voice, and this is important in the context of the EU foreign ministers’ meeting on Tuesday which I attended and the UN meeting in Geneva on Wednesday: our voice is stronger and our influence greater if we use it firmly within these institutions. There are times when we wont’ get all we like in these discussions but the best contribution that we can make is to ensure that both the EU and the UN are strong and effective players in adding our voice.”
Rachel: “So you’ve no regrets then, about the abstention then? You have no regrets about the abstention the other day? You still believe that that was the right decision?”
Flanagan: “I believe that it was an opportunity lost because the resolution could have been stronger, it could have been better. But we now have it. And we’ll now move forward within the context of what we have.”
English: “I know you’ve spoken in the past about attitudes towards Israel and the Palestinians in this country, indeed you told the Sunday Independent last year that ‘Israel had been demonised an Irish media who were content to dance to the Palestinian drum beat’. Is that still your view?”
Flanagan: “Well, listen, this conflict is serving nobody’s interests and it needs to be brought to an end, as speedily and as quickly as possible and there needs to be accountability for what has occurred and that’s why we will continue to call for investigations into breaches of all humanitarian law, we will continue to be clear and consistent in our condemnation of violence resulting from this conflict and from whatever source, that includes rockets fired by Hamas and it also includes Israeli military actions which have resulted in a huge and unacceptable level of civilian casualties.”
Listen back in full here