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Statement by President Higgins on violence in Middle East

Date: Sun 31st Dec, 2023 | 18:31

"As 2023 comes to an end, and the world reflects on the horrific upsurge in violence in the Middle East over the final months of the year, it is important that we reflect on what steps the international community can take in order to help bring a lasting and meaningful peace to the region.

More broadly, as we face into 2024, the greatest challenge facing the global community is an urgent choice between restoring the ethic of cooperation in diplomacy, or allowing the further expansion of an unaccountable military-industrial complex. This must not be allowed to dominate.

The achievement of all of our main goals as a global community - including tackling climate change, global hunger, inequality, forced migration, and stopping the destruction of our biodiversity - requires, more than ever before, cooperation between nations. We must bring this cooperation back to the front of all of our interactions.

When wars and conflicts become seemingly unending, humanity is the loser. In my previous statements, I have said that war is not the natural condition of humanity, cooperation is. We cannot be indifferent as we watch daily the loss of life that is appearing on our screens.

The awful loss of life which we have witnessed in recent months has led to a broad re-statement of the need for a two-state solution. However, for this to have meaning, there is a need to move beyond a theoretical commitment and for detailed consideration to resume of the specific details of how this can be achieved.

It is my hope that it will not be long until the international community comes together to commence the serious, crucial negotiations that will be needed in the time ahead.

Some essential elements which may require cooperation include: the requirement for a Palestinian state to be contiguous; the capacity for the State to produce its own products and release them to the market without hindrance; air, sea and land sovereignty; the position of East Jerusalem; and the sovereignty that would enable the Palestinian State to join the international organisations.

In this process, it may be helpful to consider the valuable role played by a permanent secretariat during the peace process on our own island. Rather than relying on best-intentioned but sadly short-lived initiatives, a secretariat would allow a basis for continuity and the continual development of texts and ideas. Such an approach would have value in the context of issues such as the management of boundaries, as well as some of the other issues which must be addressed if a long term peace is to be established in the Middle East.

The horrific violence and loss of life which we have seen since the attacks carried out by Hamas in Israel on 7 October, followed by the devastation caused by the Israeli response in Gaza, as well as continuing violence by settlers in the West Bank, highlight the urgency of this task. The Irish Government has given a lead in raising these issues through the European and international institutions.

Far too many lives, and particularly children's lives, have already been lost. In order for 2024 to see the beginning of the process of recovery for all those who have been so devastated by the events of recent months, it is incumbent on all nations to redouble their efforts for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages and to set about the tasks of achieving a lasting peace, one which can allow the Palestinian people to realise their rights alongside those of a secure Israel. It is not morally acceptable to be indifferent."