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Simon Harris to meet Ursula von der Leyen today with Palestine 'high on the agenda'

Harris will raise Ireland’s intention to recognise Palestine with von der Leyen.

TAOISEACH SIMON HARRIS will meet the President of the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today, with the issue of Palestine and the Middle East understood to be “high” on the meeting’s agenda.

He will also meet with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and President of the European Parliament and Roberta Metsola, in Brussels and Warsaw today.

In his first trip abroad as Taoiseach, Harris will also attend a summit hosted by the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, alongside the Prime Ministers of Spain, Finland, Estonia, Greece and Luxembourg.

The Taoiseach will use the meeting today with von der Leyen to raise the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and to repeat Ireland’s call for an immediate ceasefire and for all aid routes to open.

It is understood he will also reiterate to a number of like-minded countries that Ireland stands ready to recognise the state of Palestine.

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach said Harris understands that Palestine is a “massive priority for the Irish people”. 

‘High on the agenda’

They added that it is also a priority for the Taoiseach, and therefore the recognition of Palestine, the call for a ceasefire and the need to get aid flowing “will be extremely high on the agenda given what we’re seeing unfolding”.

The Taoiseach will also be asking von der Leyen and Michel about what is being worked on “behind the scenes” and also about the talks in Egypt last weekend. 

When The Journal asked if Harris will call for European sanctions to be imposed on Israel, the Taoiseach’s spokesperson said: “That’s not on the agenda.”

Harris had a phone call with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak yesterday, where the two leaders discussed the situation in Palestine.

Harris asked the UK prime minister for his view, with the Taoiseach’s spokesperson stating that they both agreed that what is desperately needed is a ceasefire and the flow of humanitarian aid. It is understood Harris and Sunak discussed some specifics around aid supply.

The trip to Brussels and Warsaw takes place prior to a visit by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to Dublin on Friday.

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

Tánaiste and Minister of Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin told the Dáil on Tuesday that he will be bringing forward proposals for the Government to recognise the State of Palestine, once international discussions have concluded.

When asked by The Journal if we can expect this to be brought to Cabinet in the next couple of weeks, the Tánaiste said that yes, this was the case.

Palestine recognition

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach said Palestinian recognition “is not a matter of if, it is going happen”.

When asked about the timeline, a spokesperson for the Tánaiste said there are a lot of moving parts but it is something that has been worked on for the past six months. 

At a European level, they said more countries “are getting closer to that position”. 

When questioned about how it will come about, the spokesperson said a proposal will go to Cabinet and the Dáil would likely vote on a motion. 

Ahead of the visit by Sanchez, a spokesperson for the Tánaiste said Spain has already indicated “they want to move sooner rather than later” in terms of recognising Palestine.

They added that it is important it is done in the context of the Arab Peace Initiative, adding that “it’s very hard to pinpoint exactly when”, but emphasised there is “significant momentum behind it now”.