Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has joined leaders from Spain, Belgium, and Malta in a letter to Charles Michel, President of the European Council, calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

The letter, dated December 8, was sent to Michel ahead of a European Council meeting later this week, December 14 and 15.

In the brief letter, the four leaders call upon Michel "to steer a discussion" on the war, "which should aim at agreeing on a clear and firm position by the European Union."

The four leaders say "we have reached a moment in which the European Union
must go further on three issues" - a lasting humanitarian ceasefire, measures to protect innocent civilians, and the urgent need for a political process on the basis
of the implementation of the two-state solution.

The letter continues: "We must insist on convening an international peace conference with the parties as soon as possible, in order to implement the two-state solution, in line with the European Council conclusions on October 26. Such a proposal was endorsed by of the Joint Summit of the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

"A serious and credible prospect for the recognition of the Palestinian State, alongside the State of Israel, is the necessary basis to advance towards mutual
recognition, peace and security in the region.

"These are dark hours for millions of people in Palestine and Israel. Across
Europe anti-Semitic incidents have resurged and this cannot be tolerated. It is time for the European Union to act.

"Our credibility is at stake."

Varadkar signed the letter alongside Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Spanish President Pedro Sánchez, and Robert Abela, the Prime Minister of Malta.

Meanwhile, Ireland's Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin is in Brussels today for a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

RTÉ reports that Martin has confirmed that Ireland has signed the letter alongside Belgium, Malta, and Spain, stating that the letter's principal motivation is to "end the slaughter of innocent civilians."

"The level of bombardment is on a scale that we haven't witnessed before. And it is resulting in death and misery on an unacceptable scale," Martin told reporters. 

"If you read any of the analysis in respect of the bombardment, the size of the bombs that have been dropped, the frequency of the bombing, the destruction of houses - close to 60% of all homes now destroyed - thousands of people killed, the majority of those children, that's unacceptable from any humanitarian perspective." 

Important meetings at today’s Foreign Affairs Council, focussing on the Middle East and Ukraine.

On the situation in Gaza, it is very clear there must be an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

We are witnessing a human catastrophe. The continuing bombardment is unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/xDW2BQAnXj

— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) December 11, 2023

Martin has also said that he is "very open" to imposing a travel ban on extremist Israeli settlers who have been responsible for the destruction of Palestinian homes and schools in the West Bank. 

Martin added that he would prefer if the sanctions were imposed on an EU level but said Ireland is prepared to act on its own. 

"There could be very specific sanctions [at EU level] because what the settlers are doing in the West Bank is undermining any possibility of a contiguous two-state solution to the Middle East [crisis], which we believe is the only viable solution," he said. 

"The constant attacking and displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank undermines what is declared policy of the European Union, which is a two-state solution."