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Taoiseach Simon Harris welcomes the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón to Government Buildings Leah Farrell/

Recognition of Palestine by EU countries 'much closer', Harris says after meeting with Spanish PM

Pedro Sanchez has previously said his country plans to extend recognition to the Palestinians by July.

TAOISEACH SIMON HARRIS has said that the point at which Ireland and Spain can recognise the State of Palestine is “coming much closer”.

He made the comments following a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at Government Buildings this afternoon.

The pair discussed the recognition of Palestinian statehood, with Harris saying that Ireland would move with Spain and other EU countries when “the time is right”.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin announced in the Dáil this week that Ireland plans to recognise the state of Palestine along with Spain, Belgium and Malta.

Sanchez has previously said his country plans to extend recognition to the Palestinians by July.

Speaking outside Government Buildings this afternoon, Harris noted that at last month’s meeting of the European Council, Ireland, Spain, Slovenia and Malta said they were ready to recognise the state of Palestine “when the conditions were right”. 

“Let me this evening say our assessment is that point is coming much closer and we would like to move together in doing so,” Harris said. 

“The people of Palestine have long sought the dignity of their own country and sovereignty. A home, like Ireland and Spain, can take its place among the nations of the Earth,” he said. 

“When we move forward, we would like to do so with as many others as possible to lend weight to the decision and to send the strongest message,” the Taoiseach added. 

Harris said the people is Israel “deserve a secure and peaceful future” and “so do the people of Palestine”. 

“Equal sovereignty, equal respect, in a region where people of all faiths and all traditions live together in peace. I know that is our shared goal.” 

Spaine Ireland 00002_90703224 Harris and Sanchez speaking outside Government Buildings today Leah Farrell / Leah Farrell / /

Palestine is already recognised by most UN member states (72%), with western European and Anglosphere countries being outliers on the global stage. However, Palestine is not a full member state of the UN, holding non-member observer state status. 

In Ireland, a Bill recognising Palestinian statehood passed successfully through both the Seanad and the Dáil in 2014, but the Government has yet to follow through on it, instead saying it wished to do so in coordination with other EU states.

‘Consultations continuing’

Speaking ahead of the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis, the Tánaiste said the Government’s focus is working with other EU member states and countries outside of Europe to form a group that would “collectively and in a coordinated way” recognise a Palestinian state. 

“That work is continuing and I don’t want to impose any timelines on other countries. I had good exchanges during the week with the Spanish foreign minister, with the Norwegian foreign minister and with the Slovenian foreign minister,” Micheál Martin said.

“It’s very active at the moment and the consultations will continue over the coming weeks.”

He also stressed the importance of a ceasefire and the need to get aid into Gaza as quickly as possible, saying that it was “not going in in the volumes that are required”.

It’s catastrophic what is happening to the children of Gaza and to the civilians of Gaza and no human being could not have been moved by what was transpiring.

Martin was also asked about his party’s decision not to invite the Israeli ambassador to Ireland Dana Erlich to the Ard Fheis, despite her attending the party conference last November. He said the party “want to make it clear in terms of this Ard Fheis that we are not satisfied with what’s going on in Gaza”. 

Harris said today that it is possible to condemn the Hamas attack on 7 October and call for the unconditional release of the remaining hostages and to also want to see a two-state political solution.

This week, Erlich claimed that the Irish Government’s push to recognise Palestinian statehood is “rewarding terrorism”.

“It’s entirely possible to call out the horrors that the State of Israel suffered at the hands of Hamas whilst also saying that there must now be an immediate cessation of violence,” Harris said.

“The scenes that we’re seeing in Gaza in terms of hunger, thirst, mutilation, death of innocent children, women, men, the destruction of so much civilian infrastructure, hospitals, schools, homes, has to stop.

“The only way forward here is for a political peace process that brings about the two-state solution for which Ireland has been so long committed, as I know Spain has as well.”

This evening, Martin said Erlich’s remarks were “an absurd and unacceptable assertion to make”. 

“There was a time when Israel committed to a two-state solution. I think under Benjamin Netanyahu, what we witnessed from Israel was deliberate attempts to undermine the prospects of a two state solution. The failure to rein in settlers and settlements for example, is evidence of that,” he said.

“It is just wrong to make that assertion.”

Human rights

Harris and Sanchez are also set to discuss efforts to force to EU to reevaluate its trade relationship with Israel.

Former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sanchez sent a letter to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in February asking that the Commission undertakes an “urgent review” as to whether Israel is complying with its human rights obligations under the EU/Israel Association Agreement.

The agreement, which came into force in 2000, provides the legal and institutional framework for political dialogue and economic cooperation between the EU and Israel.

Article 2 of the agreement states that it “shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles”. 

The meeting between the two leaders today at Government Buildings comes after Harris’ first trip abroad as Taoiseach this week, where he met von der Leyen yesterday in Brussels.

Harris also attended a summit hosted by the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, alongside the Prime Ministers of Spain, Finland, Estonia, Greece and Luxembourg.

With reporting by Jane Moore, Hayley Halpin and Press Association