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Ukraine is the most significant and dangerous political crisis to occur in Europe for several decades, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charles Flanagan told the AEJ on Thursday, September 4.

“While the conflict has wider geopolitical implications, we should remember first and foremost the deplorable violence that is being wreaked on civilians in Ukraine as we speak,” he said. “To date almost 2,600 people have been killed and the numbers who have become internally displaced is now approaching some 200,000. This is a tragedy happening on the very borders of the European Union.”

From the outset of the crisis, the Minister said the EU has sought to play an active role in seeking a peaceful resolution. However, continued Russian military action on Ukrainian territory is undermining efforts to achieve the political settlement we all seek for the Ukrainian people.

“Ireland believes that carefully targeted sanctions are an effective means to build pressure to engage in negotiations, mindful of the impact that they may impose on all Member States,” he said. “We firmly support the path of diplomatic dialogue which we hope can lead us to de-escalation and the restoration of the ceasefire. It is also crucial that trilateral negotiations on energy see a breakthrough before the onset of winter.”

For Ireland, he said the implications of the current situation in Ukraine for the viability and future of an international system that upholds the rule of law and guarantees the well-being and prosperity of all nations is of great concern.

On Gaza and the Middle East Peace process, Minister Flanagan said that during the most recent conflict he had stated clearly and repeatedly that the level of violence being used in Gaza, and the consequently very high civilian casualties, was simply not acceptable.

“Without continued engagement to bring about an agreement to relax the blockade, while also ending attacks against Israel from Gaza, we will simply replay this whole ghastly episode again and again, with tragic human cost,” he said. “The status quo in the Occupied Territories is unjust and unsustainable, and there is an urgent need to move quickly to achieve a comprehensive peace before the situation becomes unmanageable.”

On Iraq and Syria, the Minister said there can be no possibility of negotiating or co-opting ISIS. It is a murderous, sectarian gang, whose own self-promotion highlights its horrific crimes.

“I do not seek to minimise the great challenge facing the Iraqi Government and new Prime Minister Abadi. Addressing the crisis in Iraq cannot however be dissociated from the continuing tragedy that is unfolding in Syria.

ISIS has used the border between Iraq and Syria as a homeland, moving back and forth as the environment in the region changes. Ultimately, it must be tackled in both Syria and Iraq, and denied the freedom to threaten the region.”