Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has deemed goods from Israeli settlements in the West Bank should be treated as illegal.

The Foreign Affairs Minister said Ireland would strongly support a European initiative to label exports from Israeli producers in the Palestinian state to give consumers the choice of whether they want to buy them.

He said this was “in effect” like boycotting the goods.

“Settlements on the West Bank are illegal and therefore the produce of those settlements should be treated as illegal throughout the European Union,” Mr Gilmore said.

“The High Representative Catherine Ashton has circulated a proposal for the labelling of those goods, for in effect boycotting those goods, from settlement areas and we support that.”

Israel has come under huge international pressure over its plan to build another 3,000 settlements in the West Bank.

Last year, Mr Gilmore warned Ireland may push for the EU to ban goods from Israeli settlements if Israel does not quickly change its settlements policy in Palestinian territories.

He said at the time he hoped Ireland’s presidency of the EU, now in its fifth month, would provide the country with a platform to advance the Government’s case.

The Tanaiste was joined by former US president Jimmy Carter in his calls for the new labelling system.

Mr Carter was in Dublin with Mary Robinson and former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso for talks with the Foreign Affairs Minister on revitalising the peace process in the Middle East.

The former leaders make up a group known as the Elders, which was formed by Nelson Mandela in 2007 to use their influence to support peace and human rights around the world.

Mr Carter, who was US president from 1977 to 1981, urged Europe to take a stronger role in the Middle East.

“The EU has repeatedly condemned settlement expansion in the West Bank,” Mr Carter said.

“It could therefore introduce a clear labelling of products made in Israel settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

Meanwhile, the Tanaiste confirmed a process was in place to introduce a labelling regime of Israeli settlement goods in Ireland.

But he said a European-wide initiative would be much more effective.

“We already have the process in train to do it ourselves unilaterally if necessary,” he said.

Mr Gilmore said his talks with the Elders highlighted a need for the EU to take a leadership role in relation to the Middle East peace process as opposed to merely supporting the US.

Former Norwegian president Gro Harlem Brundtland also attended the talks in Dublin, where she made a presentation on continuing sectarian divides in Northern Ireland.

Other members of the Elders include Desmond Tutu, Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi and Graca Machel.

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