TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney has urged the US to reconsider its decision to cut funding for Palestine aid.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs made his plea at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
It follows an announcement by the US State Department in August that it was cancelling all funding to UNRWA, the UN’s Palestinian refugee aid agency, saying the body was ‘deeply flawed’.
However Coveney said the decision would empower radicals in Palestine and prolong the quest for lasting peace in the Middle East.
Downtrodden will not be forced into negotiating
“I greatly regret recent cuts to UNRWA funding announced by the United States and can I say that I plead with those in power to reconsider the consequences of their decisions in this regard,” he said.
“How does increasing the misery of Palestinians not empower the radicals who want to poison the minds of the hopeless, the angry, the young Palestinians and destabilise the moderate political leadership who are committed to lasting peace,” he added.
“A people who have been downtrodden for decades will not be forced or pressurised in negotiating through enforced hardship or humiliation.”
Ireland has increased its funding to UNRWA this year to €7million.
Coveney said the United States could lead the way in brokering a peace deal in the Middle East, with the assistance of smaller UN countries.
“Ireland I know is a small player in all this,” added Coveney, “but we will continue to advocate honestly for progress and justice as a friend of both Israel and Palestine.”
Burden of occupation
The Tánaiste however hit out at continued settler construction in the West Bank and called for an end to the blockade of Gaza.
“From all my visits to the Middle East I know that the current situation serves the interests of neither people but I’m also conscious that the burden of being under occupation is the heavier one,” said Coveney.
“Settlement construction underlies this and is causing even greater damage for the prospect for peace.”