Today, I will focus on four themes: The Middle East Peace Process, and the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya.
There is a strong international consensus on how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved: Only a negotiated two-state solution can create durable peace. A political solution cannot be substituted by institution building and economic development alone, even if these are essential building blocks for a future Palestinian state.
We are deeply concerned about the current fiscal crisis of the Palestinian Authority (PA), especially regarding clearance revenues to the PA budget, which amounts to 2/3 of its entire budget.
In March, based on a recent law by Knesset, the Israeli government decided to withhold 6% of the revenues it collects on behalf the PA due to the Palestinian prisoner payments, which was followed by a Palestinian decision not to accept any clearance revenues, unless the entire transfers are reinstated.
The PA is currently implementing serious austerity measures that are not sustainable. The donors cannot fill the financing gap, and the existence of the PA could be at stake if the fiscal crisis is not resolved. Norway urges both parties to do their utmost to be pragmatic, and find a practical solution.
The situation in Gaza remains of great concern. The people of Gaza will not have a normal life, and the economy cannot be sustained without lifting the current closure regime. The PA, Israel and the donors must mobilize support to the humanitarian package and to key infrastructure projects for Gaza. A condition for further improvement is that the PA returns to Gaza.
Norway will chair the next meeting of the international donor group to Palestine (AHLC), hosted by the EU, in Brussels tomorrow 30 April. In addition to addressing the current fiscal crisis of the PA, we will take the opportunity to urge the parties to close some of the other outstanding fiscal files. Progress on these files are essential for stabilizing the situation and to improve the situation toward a negotiated two-state solution.
We call on the parties to demonstrate genuine commitment to the two-state solution and to take credible steps to reverse the current negative trends on the ground, including settlement activity and acts of violence.
On Syria, we support the approach of the UN envoy Mr. Pedersen as outlined to this Council. He is dependent on the collective commitment by this Council, as well as the will by the Syrian and international parties to compromise, in order to successfully discharge his mandate.
The needs in Syria continue to be staggering. The donor community must remain resolute in their support in the coming years to Syria and the neighboring countries. Since the outset of the conflict, Norway has provided over 1.5 billion USD to the Syria crisis and will continue to be a consistent partner and substantial donor. Protection including Sexual and Gender Based Violence is at the core of our support.
Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The Stockholm Agreement was an important breakthrough, but has not yet been implemented by the parties. We urge all parties to abide by the agreement and to commit to a political process, and we call on this Council to apply pressure on all parties to live up to their commitments enshrined in human rights and humanitarian law. There is an urgent need to make progress towards a credible political process under the guidance of UN envoy Griffiths.
We are concerned about the aggravation of the situation in Libya following the recent military escalation in Tripoli. International humanitarian law must be respected by all parties. Norway reiterates its support to the UN Special Representative Salamé’s endeavors to find common ground and a way forward. In this respect, it is crucial that this Council remains united in its support to a durable political resolution.
Norway has a long-standing commitment to peace and security in the Middle East, and we will remain an active and consistent partner to achieve this goal.