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SC: The situation in the Middle East

Statement by Permanent Representative Mona Juul on the situation in the Middle East, 26 February 2021.

Thank you to Special Coordinator Wennesland for your briefing. We welcome also the briefings from Oren Gian, and Malak AbuSoud. The voices of civil society, and youth, provide us with new perspectives; and continue to bring vital input into the work, and considerations of this Council. Your contributions today underscore exactly why Norway encourages the inclusion, at an early stage, of young women and men in peace negotiations and conflict resolution.

Three days ago, our Foreign Minister, together with EU High Representative Borrell, hosted a virtual meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee – the AHLC. The purpose of this committee is to build viable institutional, and economic foundations, for the realisation of the two-state solution. The committee welcomed the resumption of the cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority last November which has contributed to a more positive dynamic between the parties.

Several delegations commended the normalisation agreements, welcomed the US voice in the meeting, and strongly recommended to the parties - and their international partners - to relaunch a meaningful political process without delay.

The immediate priority is of course to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. While the concerted, and largely successful, efforts of both parties to contain the spread of the pandemic gives ground for hope.

2020 saw the Palestinian economy face one of the largest contractions since the establishment of the PA. The donor community must continue to strengthen the Palestinian public health system- including by helping to provide sufficient vaccines. It must help alleviate the burden on the affected population, and stimulate the recovery of the Palestinian Economy. 

Taking a longer-term perspective, the donors emphasised that the Palestinian Authority needs higher, stable, and predictable revenues.

Norway called on donors to step up, and frontload their contributions to the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA.

The parties were also asked to resume their work on a series of fiscal issues related mainly to the Paris Protocol; and to improving access and movement for people and goods, and facilitating trade.

As Chair we plan to hold a ministerial meeting of the AHLC in September- to review progress on the recommendations made this week.

President,

Turning to the developments on the ground.  Norway is deeply concerned by the continued Israeli settlement activities on occupied Palestinian territory. The settlements are illegal under international law, and undermine the prospects for the two-state solution.

We call on both sides to fully implement resolution 2334 with all its provisions.

We are particularly worried by Israel's decisions to advance plans for thousands of housing units in sensitive areas such as Givaat HaMatos and Har Homa. These activities acutely erode the prospects of establishing a contiguous Palestinian state. We urge Israel to reverse these decisions.

Norway is equally concerned by house demolitions and confiscations by Israel in the West Bank, especially in Humsa Al Baqai’a- as the Special Coordinator has elaborated. Many children are particularly affected by these actions. Children should always be protected.

We are heartened by the scheduled Palestinian elections. We encourage all actors on the Palestinian, and Israeli sides to contribute constructively in the election process.

Norway will continue our support to the Palestinian Central Election Commission. And encourage the mobilization, and better inclusion of women and youth in the elections- as both candidates and voters.

We also welcome the recent meeting of the Quartet which is mandated by this Council to facilitate Middle East Peace Process negotiations. A revitalization of this format is a positive step.

President,

While the two-state solution seems increasingly elusive, that does not make it any less urgent. Norway is a strong and consistent supporter of the two-state solution, based on: international law, relevant Security Council resolutions, and the internationally agreed parameters.

This is the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The changed dynamics in the region- including the normalisation agreements between Israel and several Arab countries- can, and should be, used to revitalize the peace process. And the UN should play a key role.