Ireland says there are EU countries ready to recognise Palestinian state after Gaza war

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar confident that EU funding to UNRWA will continue

Leo Varadkar, Ireland's Prime Minister, in Brussels on Thursday. Bloomberg
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Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said that he is talking to some of the EU's 27 states about a possible joint recognition of a Palestinian state after the current conflict in Gaza.

"A number of EU states acting together to recognise Palestine could enable a more equal negotiation to happen after the war has ended in Gaza around a two-state solution," he said on Thursday after a meeting of the EU's 27 leaders.

The recognition must be well timed and well supported, Mr Varadkar said in Brussels. "We just don't want to do it in the form of a press release that has no meaningful outcome to it three days later," he said.

"What we want to work towards is a situation whereby there is a ceasefire in Gaza, the killing ends, the hostages are released, the humanitarian aid gets in, and that a refreshed or reformed Palestinian Authority take over control of Gaza," Mr Varadkar said. "We could support that and then recognise that as a Palestinian state."

France's President Emmanuel Macron gave a more cautious assessment of possible support for a Palestinian state, which has been recognised by some of the bloc's members but not the whole of the EU.

"We have been thinking about it for several years," Mr Macron said in Brussels.

The war in Gaza necessitates a security, humanitarian and political response, the French leader said. The latter includes the question of a two-state solution, long supported by the EU.

"Our recognition [of a Palestinian state] will be part of this package," Mr Macron said. "I think it simply needs to intervene at the right time in a political framework with, above all, consistent accountability from all stakeholders."

The UK is also considering recognising a Palestinian state after a ceasefire in Gaza without waiting for a two-state solution to be formally agreed, Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in an interview with AP, repeating his message earlier in the week in which he called for the establishment of a diplomatic campaign by “all the friends of a Palestinian state” as part of a drive to make a two-state solution irreversible.

That recognition “can’t come at the start of the process, but it doesn’t have to be the very end of the process”, Lord Cameron said during a visit to Lebanon.

His comments came a day after the US State Department said it was actively pursuing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with security guarantees for Israel and exploring options with partners in the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is at odds with the Biden administration over the creation of a state of Palestine, saying at the weekend that he would not compromise on "full Israeli security control of all territory west of the Jordan River".

Western countries, particularly among the EU, are deeply divided over the conflict in the Middle East. Some countries, such as Ireland and Belgium, champion Palestinian rights while others, including Germany, express more concern about Israeli security.

France has tried to strike a delicate balancing act in trying to support Israel’s security interests and push for the protection of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

An Israeli military operation has caused the death of more than 27,000 people in the enclave since October 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel that killed about 1,200 Israelis.

The EU has said it would review its support of the UN agency that provides essential services to Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the region after Israeli allegations that about 12 of its employees were involved in the October 7 attacks.

The EU Commission – the bloc's executive arm – said last week it would "review the matter in light of the outcome of the investigation announced by the UN and the actions it will take".

But the bloc stopped short of announcing a freeze in funding. Some of UNRWA's largest donors, including the US, Canada and Germany have suspended funding pending the agency's internal investigation.

The EU also requested an external audit by EU-appointed experts and a review of all UNRWA staff to confirm they did not participate in the attacks. UNRWA staff in Gaza totals about 13,000 people.

The EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told leaders that the next EU payment to UNRWA is due in February, Mr Varadkar said.

"There is no freeze on EU funding, but they will want assurances from the UN that everything is being done – that if there were any UN agency staff collaborating with Hamas that they are dealt with appropriately," he said.

"I am confident that decision will be made to continue that funding."

The EU should additionally support preliminary measures issued by the International Court of Justice last week calling on Israel to avoid acts of genocide in Gaza, Mr Varadkar said. The ICJ, however, is not a priority, he added.

"To be honest, there is nobody here among the 27 member states that believes that a court case that will be decided in three or four years' time is going to save any Palestinian lives or prevent any Palestinians being injured," Mr Varadkar said. "There're other actions we need to take."

Updated: February 02, 2024, 11:30 AM