Ireland tells Russia that naval exercises off our coast 'not welcome'

Ireland tells Russia that naval exercises off our coast 'not welcome'

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney has told Russia that their military exercise off the Irish coast is not welcome. But the minister admits they are legal.

The Government has told Russia that naval exercises off the Irish coast are "not welcome", but Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has accepted that they are legal.

Russian naval exercises are due to take place in early February, approximately 240km off the southwest coast and within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) but not in Ireland’s territorial waters. 

The Irish Aviation Authority has sent a notification to air traffic control to close a part of Irish airspace for a few days in February. However, it has said the ammunition drills will cause no disruption to Irish aviation.

Speaking to reporters at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, Mr Coveney said that while there is nothing illegal about the drills, Ireland has told Russia that they are not welcome.

"That is in international waters, but it is also part of the exclusive economic zone of Ireland. And so we don't have a power to prevent this happening, but certainly, I've made it clear to the Russian Ambassador in Ireland, that it's not welcome. This isn't the time to increase military activity and tension in the context of what's happening with and in Ukraine at the moment.

"Russia, under International Law of the Sea can, of course, undertake military exercises in international water. But the fact that they're choosing to do it on the western borders, if you like, of the EU, off the Irish coast, is something that, in our view is simply not welcome and not wanted right now, particularly in the coming weeks."

Ukraine Tensions

Mr Coveney said that Foreign Ministers will be pushing Russia to "defuse tensions" along the Ukrainian border, where it has amassed troops in recent weeks.

"There are two very clear messages that EU foreign ministers would want to get across today, first of all, a clear message and ask of Russia to defuse tension in the context of their activities on the borders of Ukraine, and to give reassurance to the rest of the world in terms of their intentions.
"And then secondly, I think a strong message of unity from the EU, that should Russia decide to invade Ukraine militarily, that there would be very severe consequences of that action from an EU perspective in terms of sanctions and restrictions that would follow very quickly. that I think would be the most comprehensive that the EU has put together in many, many decades.

"So a message of an appeal really, to use diplomatic means to defuse tension, but also, I think, a very strong and clear and unified message that the EU will respond collectively and in a unified manner, in a way that would introduce very significant measures in response to Russian military action on Ukraine."

Both the US and UK have ordered the families of embassy personnel to leave Ukraine amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.

The UK foreign office confirmed the move after the United States ordered the families of all American personnel at the US Embassy to leave the country in response to the risk of an invasion.

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