Irish deputy premier to travel to Egypt and Jordan to push for Gaza ceasefire

Ireland’s deputy premier is to travel to Egypt and Jordan to push for a ceasefire in Gaza and support efforts working towards a two-state solution.

The visit comes amid tensions in the Middle East following attacks between Israel and Iran, and after a strike on the densely populated city of Rafah in southern Gaza, in which 18 children and four adults were killed.

Israel has said it will carry out a ground offensive on the city located at the Egyptian border, despite international calls for restraint, including from the US and Ireland.

Tanaiste and minister for foreign affairs Micheal Martin said his visit would aim to put a focus back on the “brutal conflict” amid increased instability in the region.

He also said that he was “not satisfied” that Ireland’s and Spain’s calls in February for a review of the EU-Israel Association Agreement were getting the attention they require.

Mr Martin said in particular, they were calling for a review of whether Israel was fulfilling the human rights clauses of the agreement “because what has transpired in Gaza is absolutely unacceptable from a humanitarian point of view”.

“We are of the view in Ireland that humanitarian law has been breached and broken time and time again now,” he said.

He added that there are reservations from some member states on a review of the agreement, and said that the way in which a review would be carried out has not been decided.

The European Commission has yet to respond on whether a review will be conducted.

Mr Martin said he would raise the issue at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.

The Tanaiste is due to meet this week with Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo and with Jordanian deputy prime minister and foreign minister Ayman Safadi in Amman.

“I very much look forward to meeting my counterparts in Egypt and Jordan,” Mr Martin said ahead of the trip.

“Both countries have been at the forefront of international efforts to bring about a desperately needed ceasefire and address the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, while maintaining a focus on longer-term political solutions.

“We will continue our discussions on how Ireland and other like-minded countries in Europe can support the resolution of this brutal conflict, including through the recognition of a Palestinian state and support for UN membership for Palestine.

“It is vital that we use any political capital that we have to generate momentum for a comprehensive regional peace, along the lines envisaged by the Arab peace plan.

“A two-state solution remains the only vision of the future that can ensure peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Mr Martin is also due to travel to the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza to meet humanitarian partners and to visit UNRWA programmes supporting Palestinian refugees in Jordan.

“Against a backdrop of increased regional instability, we cannot lose sight of the urgency of addressing the current crisis in Gaza and the wider Israeli/Palestinian issue,” he said.

“My visit to Egypt and Jordan will focus on continuing my discussions with key partners on the need for an immediate ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages and full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to Gaza.

“I will also focus on how Ireland can support regional efforts to return to a political pathway towards a sustainable and peaceful resolution of this conflict and a two-state solution.”

Speaking about Gaza, Mr Martin said: “We cannot and must not lose focus on the situation in Gaza, which remains extremely grave.

“I will use my visit to the Rafah crossing to highlight the impact of ongoing Israeli restrictions on humanitarian access, which prevents life-saving aid from reaching the people of Gaza.

“Up to 1.5 million people are sheltering in Rafah and the humanitarian consequences of any Israeli military operation in the area would be disastrous.

“It is vital at such a moment of humanitarian need and regional instability to demonstrate clear and unwavering support for the work of UNRWA which remains the backbone of the humanitarian response in Gaza and a pillar of regional stability.”