On Thursday 26 September, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide chaired the meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), the international donor group for Palestine. The meeting took place in New York and was hosted by the UN.
‘The chances of a political resolution to the conflict are being severely undermined. The current situation is endangering the long-term international efforts in the Middle East, and could at worst lead to economic, humanitarian and social collapse in Palestine. It is therefore important that the donor countries have reiterated their support for a negotiated and peaceful solution to the conflict,’ Ms Eriksen Søreide said.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bishara also participated in the AHLC meeting, while Israel was represented by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs at senior-official level. In addition, ministers representing several of the major donors participated, including High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini.
‘Unless a solution is found to the standoff over transfers of clearance revenues from Israel to the Palestinian Authority, there is a real danger that both the Palestinian economy and the Palestinian institutions that the donors have helped to build up over a period of more than 25 years will be further weakened. That is why it is important that the donors and the rest of the international community have now reaffirmed their strong support both for a two-state solution and for the maintenance of sustainable Palestinian institutions. It is vital that agreements are reached between the parties and practical measures are put in place that will strengthen the Palestinian economy. It is particularly important that Israel gives the Palestinians greater access to their resources on the West Bank, not least to Area C, which covers about 60 % of the West Bank. Energy and water infrastructure needs to be upgraded,’ Ms Eriksen Søreide said.
Conditions for the two million Palestinians living in Gaza have improved somewhat since last year’s AHLC meeting, in particular as regards access to energy and jobs. Nevertheless, the international donor group is concerned about the situation there.
‘The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains critical. The work being done to improve living conditions for the people of Gaza must continue. Israel must make it easier to transport goods between the West Bank and Gaza, and must allow the Palestinians access to both regional and international markets. It will not be possible to reach a political solution for Gaza unless Hamas and Fatah reconcile their differences and the Palestinian Authority regains full control of Gaza,’ Ms Eriksen Søreide said.
‘What is most important of all, however, is that the Israelis and Palestinians resume talks and re-engage in a political process. A peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be achieved through a negotiated settlement. At this politically critical juncture, a reaffirmation by the donors and the international community of their support for a two-state solution was essential,’ Ms Eriksen Søreide said.
The AHLC was established in 1993 following the Oslo I Accord, with a view to creating an institutional and economic basis for a negotiated two-state solution. It is the only international forum where both parties to the conflict take part in a regular dialogue with donors and the international community aimed at pursuing Palestinian state-building and a negotiated two-state solution.