The Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said he and his EU counterparts have held a "blunt and direct" discussion with Israel's new foreign minister Yair Lapid during their lunch meeting in Brussels.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Coveney told RTE News: "We want to have a good and close relationship with Israel, but we want to be honest in terms of the concerns we have with Israeli policy.

"Until settlement expansion stops, until demolitions in occupied territories stop, until forced evictions stop, it is very difficult for the relationship between the EU and Israel to progress without the Israel-Palestinian issue getting in the way."

Mr Coveney acknowledged that the Israeli foreign minister had said annexation of occupied territories would not happen while he is in government.

Following the meeting, Mr Lapid, the first Israeli foreign minister to address EU foreign ministers since 2008, said: "It is no secret that I support a two-state solution. Unfortunately, there is no current plan for this. However, there is one thing we all need to remember. If there is eventually a Palestinian state, it must be a peace-loving democracy. We cannot be asked to take part in the building of another threat to our lives,"

Mr Coveney said these were "positives" which could be built on. He said he hoped to visit Israel in September or October.

'Moving in the direction of famine'

The minister also said that half a million people are currently living in famine conditions in Ethiopia and 1.8 million others are "moving in that direction, most of them children", as a result of the conflict with the Tigray region.

"We know that while there is a technical ceasefire of sorts, there is still the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray, and of course the Ethiopian troops moving out of Tigray have effectively cut off that region by blocking off road access and bridge access," he said.

This was leading to "enormous problems" in getting food and essential supplies to a very vulnerable population.

He warned that the world could not accept a situation where Ethiopian troops would attempt to cut Tigray off from the world, which said was akin to using famine as a weapon of war.

"If by pulling out of Tigray Ethiopian troops are instructed to cut off Tigray from the rest of the world, and the rest of Ethiopia, then that is a strategy of starving them out, and we cannot have that.

"There needs to be access for humanitarian organistations and safe passage needs to be secured and provided. If we had currently had half a million people living in famine conditions, and close to another 2m who are moving in that direction, the world has got to shine a spotlight on that issue and it's got to take action."