Formal recognition of Palestine coming closer, Harris and Spanish PM say

Taoiseach says scenes of ‘hunger, thirst, mutilation, death of innocent children, women, men, the destruction of hospitals, schools’ must stop

Taoiseach Simon Harris and the Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez have said the time when a group of six European countries formally recognises Palestine as a state is coming closer.

The two leaders held a half-hour meeting in Government Buildings on Friday which was dominated by the war in Gaza.

Speaking afterwards, the Taoiseach said a number of EU states agreed last month that they would move to recognise Palestine when the conditions were right.

“That point is coming much closer and we would like to move together. The people of Palestine have long sought the dignity of their own country and sovereignty,” he said. “When we move forward, we would like to do so with as many others as possible. And then we send a decision to the people of Israel.”


Mr Harris added that the people of Palestine deserved equal respect. “In a region where people of all faiths and traditions came together in peace, I know that is our shared aim.”

Mr Sánchez said it was not possible at present to say when the countries would move to recognise the Palestinian state. “As of now, no one can discern clearly the phases or times for the process. We are in unchartered terrain.”

He said it was imperative to move forward because if countries stood still the result would be “more suffering, more deaths, more resentment and more conflicts in the region”.

Mr Sánchez said he believed Israeli prime minister Binyamin Natanyahu had no clear peace plan. “Therefore, we believe that the international community and countries like Spain and Ireland must be involved and seek to bring solutions to this terrible situation.”

Both leaders said they agreed the need for an immediate ceasefire, to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza and to free the hostages that are still being held by Hamas.

Mr Sánchez said the solution needed to recognise the coexistence of two states, Palestine and Israel.

“The international community will not be able to help Palestine if it doesn’t recognise its existence. That is why our two countries have undertaken together to recognise Palestine as a state as soon as possible when the appropriate conditions are in place and we also undertake to support the recognition of Palestine as a member of the UN with full rights,” he said.

“We do this with two clear objectives. The first is to send a message of hope to the millions of Gazans and Palestinians who are suffering in the region. And secondly, to show the world that in Europe there are also countries willing to defend respect for the international order in all cases.”

Asked about Israel’s strong criticism of the move, and its claims that it was giving legitimacy to Hamas, Mr Harris said he had condemned the Hamas attack on October 7th and the taking of hostages.

“It’s entirely possible to call out the horrors that the state of Israel suffered at the hands of Hamas while also saying that there must be an immediate cessation of violence, that the scenes we’re seeing in Gaza in terms of hunger, thirst, mutilation, death of innocent children, women, men, the destruction of so much civilian infrastructure, hospitals, schools ... that has to stop. The only way forward here is for a political peace process that brings about a two-state solution,” he said.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times