Tuesday 22 May 2018

Reaction: Coveney dismayed by ‘disproportionate’ use of force and calls for UN inquiry

Israeli border guards push back Israeli Arab protestors in front of the new United States embassy in Jerusalem. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Israeli border guards push back Israeli Arab protestors in front of the new United States embassy in Jerusalem. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Roland Oliphant in London

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney expressed dismay at the use of "disproportionate" force by Israeli forces against Palestinian protesters and called for a UN probe into the violence.

His comments came as Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the United States had forfeited its authority to broker a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and had become "part of the problem, not the solution".

Mr Erdogan's comments were among the most strongly worded of a series of diplomatic protests as governments around the world condemned Donald Trump's decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

The US formally opened the embassy yesterday afternoon after Mr Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital last year.

Palestinian health officials said 52 people were killed and more than 1,200 injured by Israeli fire during protests over the embassy opening.

Mr Coveney said he was "profoundly shocked" by yesterday's violence. He added: "I have repeatedly expressed my dismay at the ongoing deaths of Palestinians in Gaza due to Israel's use of live ammunition in response to demonstrations. I am profoundly shocked that ... dozens more have been shot dead by Israeli forces. Thousands have suffered life-changing injuries.

"I reiterate that an independent investigation is urgently needed, as called for by the UN Secretary-General.

"It is essential that Israeli forces show restraint if this tragic death toll is not to climb even higher."

Mr Erdogan, who is in London on a three-day visit for talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May, said the embassy move could "ignite an even greater fire between communities".

"With its latest step, America has chosen to be a part of the problem, not a solution, and lost its mediator role in the Middle East peace process," he said in a speech at Chatham House.

"We are rejecting again this decision which violates international law and which is against UN resolutions," he said. "The international community must do its part as soon as possible and take swift action to put an end to Israel's increasing aggression," he said.

Separately, Mrs May called for "restraint" and criticised the move, but avoided Mr Erdogan's direct condemnation.

"We urge calm and restraint to avoid actions destructive to peace efforts," a Number 10 spokesman said.

"The prime minister made her views clear in December that we disagreed with the decision [to move the US embassy]. We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region."

But other governments took a much stronger line.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, called the embassy move a violation of international law and of UN Security Council resolutions. Mikhail Bogdanov, the Russian deputy foreign minister responsible for Middle Eastern affairs, called the move "short-sighted" and said the US was to blame for yesterday's "sharp escalation" of violence in Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank but not the Gaza strip, called the killings a "massacre" and demanded an emergency meeting of the UN Security council. "If a similar massacre [by an occupying power] happens in any other nation, it would trigger a massive global outrage. Palestine should not be an exception," said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have also urged a UN emergency meeting.

Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, called the violence in Gaza "shocking" and demanded that Israel halt the use of live rounds.

Iran, which is locked in a diplomatic and military confrontation with Israel over its presence in Syria, called it "a day of shame".

"Israeli regime massacres countless Palestinians in cold blood as they protest in world's largest open air prison. Meanwhile, Trump celebrates move of US illegal embassy and his Arab collaborators move to divert attention," said Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister.

Irish Independent

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