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Thank you to Tunisia for the initiative and Minister of State Mohamed Ali Nafti for chairing the meeting today. Please also pass on my warm regards to Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi. I wish him a speedy recovery. Let me thank UN Special Coordinator Tor Wennesland for his briefing and congratulate him on his appointment. I would also like to extend my gratitude to Mr Nickolay Mladenov for his dedication and skilful leadership during the last five years.
As an elected member of the Security Council, Norway will work to promote the resumption of negotiations on the outstanding final status issues. Negotiations should build on the previous agreements between the parties and be based on international law, the relevant Security Council resolutions and internationally agreed parameters. We will explore ways in which the Council can be a dynamic, constructive partner in this process.
Like the other Council members, Norway strongly supports a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is preordained that Israelis and Palestinians live side by side. The path to doing so in peace goes though the establishment of two states within secure and recognised borders. This is the only sustainable way to realise the legitimate national aspirations and safeguard the security and dignity of both peoples. Moreover, it is the only approach that has the commitment of the Israeli and Palestinian leadership and is supported by international consensus.
For a future two-state solution to work, it must be viable. A Palestinian state cannot exist unless there is an end to the occupation and the preconditions required for economic growth are in place. Only a prosperous Palestine can ensure stable revenues for the Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinian state needs strong and transparent institutions, so our support for reforms must continue.
We welcome the announcement of the forthcoming Palestinian elections. The Palestinian people deserve a state that is democratic, based on the rule of law, with security, equal rights and opportunities for all. A viable state requires national unity and a unified government, accountable to its people.
Furthermore, pending a just and agreed political solution for Palestine refugees, it is our shared responsibility to ensure that UNRWA has the resources it needs to continue delivering on its mandate.
The achievements of the Palestinian state-building process deserve recognition. Cooperation between the parties is crucial and it is ongoing. The international community remains committed in its support.
The Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee, chaired by Norway, is still the central mechanism for enabling the parties and the international community to uphold the institutions and the platforms of cooperation needed to build a future Palestinian state.
At the AHLC meeting on 23 February, Norway will call for increased international support for these purposes. There is an urgent need to solve outstanding fiscal issues, ensure continued banking relations, and to further develop cooperation arrangements. The meeting will also focus on the situation in Gaza and the need to maintain calm, to open for access and mobility, and to complete ongoing projects to build basic infrastructure. Further efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in Palestine, including vaccine distribution, are urgently needed.
Norway has joined the Security Council with the fundamental belief that it is possible to settle even entrenched conflicts peacefully through dialogue, peace diplomacy, and coordinated international support. During its term on the Council, Norway will draw on its longstanding experience and network of contacts in the region. Our policy is to speak and listen to everyone.
The primary responsibility for moving negotiations forward lies with the parties. I encourage them to take steps to create mutual trust and foster a public atmosphere conducive to negotiations on all final status issues. It is our duty as members of this Council to support them. We should work together to identify areas of common ground, and to create it where there is none.
A proven success factor for building conditions that are conducive to peace is the mobilisation of civil society and the full, equal and meaningful participation of women at all levels and in all phases of the process. While the Security Council attaches importance to the women, peace and security agenda, it is often overlooked on the ground.
Norway will remain an outspoken defender of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, in all conflict situations on the Council's agenda. We will continue to speak out to enhance the protection of civilians, in particular children.
The Security Council has repeatedly expressed the position that all Israeli settlement activities on occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law. These activities severely undermine the prospects for a two-state solution by eroding the possibility of establishing a contiguous, independent, and sovereign Palestinian state. Norway is particularly concerned by the ongoing settlement activity in key areas of the West Bank.
Violent conflicts elsewhere in the region have a negative effect on the possibilities for negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Similarly, an unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be an impediment to regional stability.
That said, we see glimmers of hope in the region. Norway welcomes the normalisation of relations between Israel and several Arab states, facilitated by the US. Regional integration is key to promoting economic and social development. The agreements that have been reached do not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but they create new regional dynamics that we should take advantage of in our efforts to promote peace and stability.
A window of opportunity is opening for broader international efforts to support bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine. The modalities for such talks can take many forms. The Security Council and initiatives such as a reinvigorated Quartet, will be important to ensure a process that is both credible and successful.
Peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been elusive and is long overdue. Mindful of the challenges and the obstacles, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that serious negotiations are resumed. We have no time to lose.