Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney has said the United Nations may soon deliver "new thinking and new initiatives" on how to tackle the ongoing humanitarian and political crisis in Syria.

Mr Coveney said this would particularly help the "many, many thousands" of detainees who have been seized "arbitrarily" by the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Ireland took a rotating seat on the United Nation Security Council in January, and assumes its presidency for the month of September.

Updating the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Minister Coveney said it is essential to maintain the only international border crossing into Syria.

On a visit to the Bab al-Hawa crossing, Mr Coveney said he saw "hundreds of trucks per day" crossing into Syria from Turkey, carrying provisions essential for families fleeing violence and forced to live in "tent cities".

He said there is an urgent need to "find a way by the end of June to extend the resolution", which allows the UN to operate the crossing, otherwise it will close.

The challenge is to convince Russia, he added, as it sees the crossing as a lifeline for forces fighting its ally, Bashar al-Assad.


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Minister Coveney was responding to Green Party TD Brian Leddin who had recounted how the committee recently met a Syrian woman whose three brothers were detained, and then murdered, by the Syrian government.

In a wide-ranging exchange with committee members, Mr Coveney detailed the impact that US President Joe Biden assuming office is having.

The change of administration in Washington is putting "a lot of pressure on Saudi Arabia in relation to [its military activity in] Yemen", and also on Eritrea and Ethiopia over the ongoing violence in the Tigray region. "The US has become much more exorcised...in recent weeks," Mr Coveney said.

This "has added real impetus to the need for change [in Tigray]."

He said that there is "lots of evidence" of "brutal...breaches of international law", and sexual violence by soldiers and paramilitaries on women and children in the region.

Minister Coveney informed those present that there is no consensus in the EU to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia over the war in Yemen.

However, he said "a number of arms exporters in the EU have said they will not export until there is a permanent ceasefire".

In relation to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Coveney said it was morally unacceptable "to allow a legal intellectual argument to prevent or slow down the manufacturing of live saving vaccines".

However, he emphasised that companies who have developed the vaccines need to be a part of any broadening of production, as they possess the essential "know-how".