Ireland supports a ban on West Bank settlement products even though the EU is unlikely to impose one, Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore has said.

“Ireland would support a ban at EU level, and put it forward as an option the [EU] Council might consider, when we come to review the [council’s] May Conclusions,” Gilmore said.

He wrote this opinion earlier this month in a letter to the Irish parliament’s Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, but which was only obtained by the media over the weekend. The “May Conclusions” refers to recent decisions to increase enforcement of EU taxes on settlement products.

Gilmore said he supported a ban on moral, not legal grounds. He said that while settlements were illegal under international law, the people who lived in them and the products they produced were not.

“I believe there is a moral case for banning settlement products, and I agree it could have a symbolic impact,” Gilmore wrote.

It would be consistent with European Union values and positions to exclude settlement products, he wrote.

Gilmore cautioned, however, that he didn’t fool himself into thinking that such a ban would make an economic impact on the settlements.

“I am somewhat concerned that attention is being focused excessively on the issue of settlement products, which form only one aspect, and a comparatively small one, of the problem. The key issue is settlements themselves and their relentless expansion,” he said.

He cautioned that the EU was divided on this subject, and that it was not possible to secure the agreement of all 27 EU member states to ban settlement products.

Gilmore noted that although his country was slated to take over the six-month EU rotating presidency, it would not have the power to impose an EU ban. “We have to be realistic about the scope available to the rotating presidency,” he said.

An Israeli official said, “This latest Irish crusade smacks of self righteousness.”

Banning settlement products would not further the interest of peace and would only prolong the conflict, the official said.

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