Today I will focus on three themes: the situation in Syria, protection of religious minorities, and the Middle East Peace Process.
In Syria, only a political solution can provide lasting peace. This Council must fulfill its role in promoting a peaceful solution to the conflict. In the upcoming rounds in Geneva, we underscore the importance of involving civil society and women’s representatives.
At the Syria conference in Brussels, which we co-hosted, donors committed to sustain their support to the Syria crisis response. We encourage donors to deliver on their promises. Norway will deliver on our four-year pledge of 1.16 billion USD.
Secondly, Norway is deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation for religious minorities in the Middle East. The unacceptable atrocities against Christians, Yezidis and other religious minorities in Egypt, Iraq and other parts of the region are creating deep divisions within local communities. We, the international society, must do our part in protecting the minority populations. The concerned countries must also do theirs.
There is a strong international consensus on how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved. A negotiated two-state solution is the only way to achieve a durable peace.
Therefore, Palestinian state-building and strengthening of the Palestinian economy must continue. It is critical to the viability of the two-state solution.
Norway chairs the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee. This is the only existing international mechanism where both parties meet regularly and engage in a serious dialogue to resolve outstanding issues, with assistance by the major donor countries. As a state-building project, the AHLC is actively underpinning the two-state solution.
The next AHLC-meeting will be held in Brussels on 4 May with the EU as host. There has been a significant drop in budget support by donors, which has led to a serious financing gap on the PA. Norway calls on the donors to reconsider their aid commitments, and to disburse pledges made in the Cairo conference in 2014.
With respect to this meeting, Norway calls on the parties to progress on resolving outstanding fiscal issues and in implementing the electricity agreement from last fall. Norway encourages the parties and the donors to move faster on key infrastructure projects on water and energy especially in Gaza.
We call on the parties to demonstrate 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. Only the parties can resolve this conflict, but the international community must remain engaged and contribute actively in the peace efforts.