“I am delighted to welcome Minister Le Drian and Minister Beaune to Ireland today. This is the first visit by EU counterparts to Ireland in some time and I am particularly pleased it is our good friends from France who are the first to do so.
We enjoy very warm relations with France. Our two countries have vibrant and historic community, political, cultural, trade and business links. Our relationship has always been one of enduring friendship and affinity. It is now our nearest EU neighbour. In 2019, we launched our first French strategy – “Ireland’s Strategy for France 2019-2025 – Together in Spirit and Action”.
Today, Minister Le Drian and I will adopt a Joint Declaration, setting out a number of areas where we can start working more closely to mutual benefit and also agreeing to develop a substantive and strategic Joint Plan of Action for adoption later this year.
Our mutual aim is to further strengthen and deepen the already excellent relationship between our two countries. The Declaration marks a new beginning between our two ministries and indeed our two countries. I look forward to working with France to achieve the outcomes of this Declaration over the coming months and years.
We will discuss a number of issues on the EU agenda today, including EU-UK relations. I welcome this discussion with France in advance of the Leaders discussion at the European Council next week, on the state of play on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. It underlines the continuing importance of EU unity and solidarity.
It is vital that the EU and UK work together to fully implement the Protocol, to protect both the gains of the Good Friday Agreement and the integrity of the Single Market, and to do so in a manner than impacts on communities in Northern Ireland as little as possible. We hope that real progress can be made as soon as possible.
We will also discuss a range of issues on the Security Council agenda, including the current situation in the Middle East, after the past week of violence in which so many innocent Palestinian and Israeli civilians have lost their lives. I reiterate calls for de-escalation and an immediate end to violence.
The protection of all civilians, in Gaza, in the West Bank and in Israel, is of paramount importance and it is an obligation under international humanitarian law. Unimpeded, regular and predictable access for humanitarian goods and personnel must be ensured.”