Thank you to Special Coordinator Wennesland for your briefing.
First of all, let me address the situation in Sheikh Jarrah. In January we condemned the eviction of the Salihiya family from their home. In the last couple of weeks, tensions again increased significantly. Evicting Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah is unacceptable. Attempts to do so can escalate the conflict –– as we saw in May last year.
Norway urges Israel to halt all evictions in East Jerusalem indefinitely and to respect the rights of the Palestinians living there. Freedom of expression and assembly, as well as the right to peaceful protests must be upheld. Furthermore, the integrity of the holy sites and the historic status quo must also be upheld and fully respected. This applies to Christian holy sites and property in Jerusalem too.
I reiterate that Israeli settlements in occupied territory, including in East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law. The settlement building, demolitions and evictions must stop. Let me again address the need for a vibrant civil society and respect for human rights.
Civil society actors must be allowed to do their work. And room for civil society actors must be protected while human rights defenders must be respected.
The Palestinian leadership should take steps to enhance democratic legitimacy.
Reconciliation and unity in Palestine must be a priority. We welcome the contacts and dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority following-up the recommendations from the AHLC meeting in November last year.
It is crucial that the parties work on achieving progress, in particular, on the fiscal questions, before the next AHLC meeting scheduled for 10 May in Brussels. I would like to thank Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom for their support in organizing hands-on discussions and the follow-up in the AHLC. The financial situation for the PA continues to be critical. We hope to also see progress on the much-needed PA reforms which were announced in Oslo.
However, talks between the parties should not be limited to economic issues.
The aim should be to discuss a political horizon and a return to negotiations for a two-state solution. Norway remains ready to assist.
It is positive that the number of Gazans permitted to work in Israel is increasing.
And we welcome measures to improve the living conditions for the population in Gaza.
We reiterate that it is essential for the civilian populations that the calm is preserved and made into a long-term and stable ceasefire. Calm is needed for the current work to be completed on basic infrastructure, including water, sewage, and energy, – as well as for creating more jobs.
In closing, let me highlight the need for increased donor support to UNRWA. The acute and continuous funding shortfalls are undermining UNRWA’s ability to carry out their vital work, thus threatening stability in the region. Norway recently increased its assistance for UNRWA, and will provide a total of NOK 1.1 billion (about USD 125 million) over a period of four years. We encourage more donors to provide increased and predictable multi-year funding.