Last week, I paid a visit to Gaza. I was the first Foreign Minister of an EU member State to do so in over a year. My purpose in travelling was a humanitarian one, to see for myself the impact of a blockade which has now been imposed on the people of Gaza for some two-and-a-half years. The situation there is truly a humanitarian crisis, with a growing proportion of Gazans receiving insufficient food each day and some 80% of the population now subsisting below the poverty line. My visit reinforced my belief that the conditions under which the people of Gaza have to live as a result of the blockade are inhumane and utterly unacceptable. Normal international standards of human rights are not being respected. It is completely unjust that an entire population should be subjected to medieval siege conditions of this kind. As this situation strengthens extremism and undermines the voices of moderation, it is also wholly counter-productive in terms of achieving the wider political progress which is so urgently needed in the Middle East.
I believe that the credibility of the international community is at stake in Gaza. We must step up pressure for a lifting of the blockade and the opening of the border crossings to normal commercial and humanitarian traffic.
I am also convinced that accountability for the most serious offences which occurred during the Gaza conflict in late 2008/early 2009 must be ensured. That is why Ireland voted for the Resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly last November on the Goldstone Report and why we similarly supported the Resolution adopted last week reiterating the call on both sides to conduct credible and independent investigations. While we do not endorse every recommendation in the Goldstone Report, we do recognise it as a serious and very important contribution to our understanding of what took place in Gaza and southern Israel and of the need to
ensure some form of appropriate accountability for actions which occurred.
See also the video of the speech.
Among the 'Western European and other Group', with which Ireland is associated in the United Nations, I believe it is the only State to have taken such a public position.
Minister Martin also expressed concern about the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, North Korea and Burma.