Coveney: 'Illegal expansion by Israel needs calling out by EU'

Coveney: 'Illegal expansion by Israel needs calling out by EU'

On the current Israeli-Palestinian crisis, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said "the expansion of settlements in occupied territory is illegal, forced evictions in occupied territory is illegal and we need to call that out".

The EU has "failed to call out" Israel's expansions into Palestinian settlements, the Foreign Affairs Minister has said.

Delivering a State Of The Union address to the Irish Institute of European Affairs (IIEA), Simon Coveney said that he "wants the EU and Ireland to have a close relationship with Israel" but said that the EU's position is in favour of a two-state solution that includes a negotiated peace.

"But the expansion of settlements in occupied territory is illegal, forced evictions in occupied territory is illegal and we need to call that out."

He said that this had "not been called out by the EU" and had fed into the tension and violence seen in recent days and had allowed "terrorists in Gaza to fire rockets into Israel", which "wasn't acceptable".

"My position isn't one of taking sides. I'm not pro or anti-Israel. But our insistence is on adherence to international law."

EU defence

On EU defence, Mr Coveney said that "we just aren't" involved in any moves to an overall EU army, but said that the country would "continue to work on initiatives which support our priorities".

Mr Coveney added that not cooperating with EU members on issues like cybersecurity "makes no sense".

"Cybersecurity is an issue of huge importance and one that we should take very seriously in Ireland. We will engage with countries in ways that do not compromise our neutrality. We will continue to engage in cooperation in ways that do not undermine our non-alignment."

Asked about repairing relationships between the US and EU, Mr Coveney said that the Biden administration is the "most open" to bridging the gap between Washington and Brussels and said that "we have got to use every month we have with this administration".

"When you look at the previous administration, which was based on tension, personal animosity, and major policy differences, this is a big policy shift from Washington and we have to harness that."

Speaking on Ireland's relationship with the EU, Mr Coveney said that it was "important that the EU was honest with itself" and acknowledged its failures in recent handling of crises, saying that the EU's lack of a coordinated response to migration had been one such failure. 

He said that Ireland had in the past viewed the EU relationship as "transactional" and this had sometimes come at the expense of being in a position to proactively shape the future of the union.

"We've learned collectively that the range of challenges we face are too great for any one nation, no matter how large that nation."

Mr Coveney said that support for the EU was slightly lower than after the handling of the vaccine programme than in the "height of the Brexit discussions" when it "felt like there was something bigger supporting us when we were really exposed".

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