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"As is" reference - not a United Nations document

Source: European Union
15 January 2004

Extract from speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D. “Europe and the Middle East” Tel Aviv University

Israel can be confident that Ireland, as Presidency of the European Union, will be constructive, open, and even-handed, and will reflect faithfully the views of the European Union as a whole. Our sole objective is the achievement of a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Putting on my European Union hat, I want to acknowledge the deep, historic roots which bind Europe and Israel. The foundations of the State of Israel and of the European Union have common origin in the horrors of the Second World War.

The Holocaust was an atrocity without parallel. One that Europe does not forget. But both before and since then, the Jewish contribution to the development of European and Western civilisation in so many vital spheres has been immense. Our relationship is therefore a special and sensitive one, and something to be cherished.

The European Union pursues its relations with Israel both bilaterally and through the framework of the EuroMed arrangement, which has the particular benefit of bringing Israel into direct contact with the other countries of the Maghreb-Mashreq region. We have an EU-Israel Association Agreement and a joint Framework Programme for Research and Development. We are now looking to future intensify our relationship through the Union's Wider Europe Initiative.

Euro-Med remains central to the Union's desire to see a shared, prosperous and peaceful future for Israel and its Arab neighbours in the Mediterranean. I look forward to welcoming Minister Shalom to Dublin in May, when I will host a EuroMed Ministerial meeting.

A very tangible illustration of the strength of the EU-Israel relationship is that my first overseas trip since Ireland assumed the Presidency of the European Union is to Israel.

I arrived here in the early hours of this morning. When I woke this morning, I picked up the local newspapers. Looking out of the front pages were the faces of innocent young Israelis who now lie dead; their lives, so full of hope and potential, brutally ripped away by an act of senseless terrorism. I then turned on the television to see film of the young woman, a mother of two children, who had so misguidedly blown herself and killed these young Israelis. One can only wonder about the motives and state of mind of someone who would commit so heinous an act. I have nothing but condemnation for those who recruited her and sent her out to do such a thing.

Reading on, I learned of the plight of Palestinians struggling to feed their families and whose jobs and income had been put at threat by this latest atrocity.

These are just the latest victims of a conflict which has brought death and destruction to Palestinians and Israelis alike and for which no end is in sight.

What I read and saw confirmed to me that I was right to come here so early in the Irish Presidency. The current situation cannot be allowed to continue. Every outrage, every additional day of suffering for Israelis and Palestinians, renders the prospect of lasting peace ever more elusive.

There is no time to lose in seeking to put an end to this conflict. The worst possible reaction to the current situation is inaction.

The European Union is heavily engaged in the search for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. The Union is a member of the Quartet and a drafter of the Roadmap. We want a peace which includes Israel, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon and which puts bring a final end to conflict in the region.

In European Union's view, both sides have missed opportunities. As a result, Europe has taken issue with some of the decisions which Israel has made, as it also has with Palestinian failures. When we disagree with Israeli policy, it is from one perspective and one perspective only - we believe sincerely that those policies will not help achieve the long-term security and peace that Israel rightly demands.

Let us bury, once and for all, the lie that the European Union is anti-Israel. If Europe says something that Israel does not like, it does so to a considerable extent out of concern for Israel, not out of hostility.

As EU Presidency, Ireland bears a responsibility for helping move the process forward. Ireland and our EU Partners are committed to the success of the Road Map. As Prime Minister Sharon has said, the Roadmap is a clear and reasonable plan. It can and must be implemented. I welcome the Prime Minister's assurance that the Government of Israel is committed to the realisation of all phases of the Roadmap.

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