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O’Neill vows to press Biden to be a ‘strong partner for peace’ in Middle East

O’Neill vows to press Biden to be a ‘strong partner for peace’ in Middle East

Michelle O’Neill has vowed to press President Joe Biden to replicate the “constructive role” the US played in Northern Ireland in its approach to the conflict in the Middle East.

The Sinn Fein vice president insisted she would raise the ongoing bloodshed in Gaza with the president when they meet during St Patrick’s Day engagements in the US.

Sinn Fein has resisted calls from some pro-Palestinian supporters to boycott the traditional St Patrick’s events in Washington DC in protest at the US’s ongoing support for Israel.

The party had said it will instead use its platform in the US capital to call on the administration to push for an end to the conflict.

In an interview with the PA news agency in Washington, Stormont First Minister Ms O’Neill said the main purpose of her visit as joint head of the devolved executive in Belfast was to seek investment for Northern Ireland.

However, she made clear she would raise the issue of Gaza in a personal capacity.

“Our priority here in terms of our executive is in terms of the investment piece and about the political engagement,” she said.

“Personally, I will use the opportunity to talk to anybody that I can talk to in terms of the course of this visit to raise the issue of the fact that one of the most successful US foreign policies has been actually the Irish peace process, and their role in that, their constructive role in terms of being a strong partner for peace.

“And I will be urging the president and others to encourage them to take that same approach in terms of the Middle East.

“Because, ultimately, I think what everybody wants to see is a ceasefire and aid to the people and that we get to a political solution and it needs to happen with urgency.”

DUP deputy First Minister Emma Little Pengelly told PA that the executive did not have an agreed policy position on Gaza.

However, she said all parties in the administration were clearly in agreement around the need for peace in the Middle East.

“We are here as joint leaders of the executive, the executive doesn’t have a policy on that particular issue, because of course it’s made up of four parties and there will be different party political perspectives,” she said.

“But one thing for absolutely sure is that of course we want peace in the region. We want to see the hostages released, we want to see discussions break out and eventual peace. So, of course, we have a joint view of that.”