I align myself with the statement delivered previously by Sweden on behalf of the Nordic countries and will now add some further remarks in my national capacity.
Norway followed this month’s escalation in violence between militant groups in Gaza and Israel with great concern and we welcome the ceasefire last week with significant relief. I commend Egypt, Qatar, the UN, and the US for their efforts, it is encouraging to see that the ceasefire still holds. We call on the parties, and on all actors, to maintain calm across Israel and Palestine.
Together with China and Tunisia, Norway took an active role in the UN Security Council during the hostilities, and we are pleased that the Council came together to agree a press statement on 22 May, with clear messages to the parties, and to the international community.
The hostilities took a heavy toll on the civilian population. More than 250 people, including over 60 children, were killed during the 11 days of fighting. New traumas have been created. Also, in addition to the loss of lives and internal displacement, there is significant damage to civilian infrastructure in Gaza, which must be reconstructed.
Humanitarian needs are again sharply increasing. Norway appeals for the international community to direct emergency funding for humanitarian assistance to Gaza without delay. As a first measure, Norway announced last week that we will increase our humanitarian support in Palestine to a total of more than 12 million US dollars in 2021. These additional funds will be disbursed shortly through key humanitarian partners to cover acute needs in Gaza.
We also call for rapid, safe, and unimpeded access for humanitarian actors, to bring in food, health services, and other humanitarian relief, including essential goods like fuel and gas.
The crisis was a stark reminder of the absence of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is clear that the fighting did not contribute to resolving any of the underlying issues. The Israeli and Palestinian peoples are no closer to peace than they were before. Yet, they also do not need to be farther away from peace. Rather, the parties hold it within their power - with support from the international community - to move forward along three parallel paths:
First, they must avoid renewed fighting, with its devastating impact.
Second, they must build on the significant gains made during the past decades to continue strengthening the foundations for a future Palestinian State. And as Chair of the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee, Norway remains focused on an agenda to strengthen the Palestinian Authority’s institutions, and increase its revenues, with a view to improving the welfare of the Palestinian people.
And third, they must redouble their efforts to re-start negotiations towards the two-state solution. Only a political solution to the conflict can bring much deserved peace to Israelis and Palestinians.