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Absent a credible political process to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is of key importance that we continue to build the institutional and economic foundation for a Palestinian state. Norway continues to assist in these efforts as we have done since the Oslo Peace Process, including through chairing the next meeting of the international donor group to Palestine (the AHLC) in Brussels this spring.
The recent efforts to resolve outstanding economic issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority need to continue with a view to improving the fiscal situation of the PA. Moreover, facilitating trade and easing up restrictions on movement and access are preconditions for a more sustainable Palestinian economy.
The recent flare-ups of violence risk escalating tensions around Gaza. Norway notes the positive effects of donors’ efforts, and both humanitarian and infrastructure programs need to continue. The ongoing health crisis is of particular concern. We urge all parties to work closely with the UN to assure proper supply lines to Gaza.
Norway’s position on the Israeli establishment of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, remains clear. Such establishments constitute a grave violation under international law, and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution towards just, lasting and comprehensive peace.
Norway welcomes plans to hold general elections in Palestine this year. Free, fair and inclusive elections are important to renew the legitimacy of Palestinian national institutions. We encourage all parties, including the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian factions - and Israel, to act constructively in facilitating and holding elections across Palestine, including in East Jerusalem and Gaza.
President, allow me to make a few remarks on the situation in the region:
We are deeply concerned by the increased tensions between the US and Iran over the past weeks, and the violent escalation in Iraq. While the situation seems to have calmed down for now, the conflict remains unresolved. Norway urges all involved parties to de-escalate, to exercise maximum restraint, and to engage through dialogue and diplomacy.
The people of Iraq deserve peace and security. Further escalation will put the stability and territorial integrity of Iraq at risk. We must safeguard the progress achieved so far, including through the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. ISIL has lost almost all its territory in Iraq and Syria, largely due to the efforts of the global coalition. However, they retain the capacity to re-establish a foothold in the region should the security situation deteriorate further. Norway is committed to continue our assistance and support to Iraq in the fight against ISIL; in cooperation with allied partners, and in agreement with the Iraqi government.
The JCPOA is important for regional and global security, and remains key to continued confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. While we regret the US decision to withdraw from the JCPOA and to re-impose sanctions, we express our strong concern about Iran’s steps to reduce its compliance with nuclear commitments. Norway urges Iran to return without delay to full compliance with the provisions of the nuclear agreement. The efforts of European partners to preserve the JCPOA, within the framework of the agreement’s dispute mechanism, has our full support.
Promoting peace and security in the Middle East remains a priority for Norway. We stand ready to support any endeavour that seeks to further that aim.
If the past weeks have taught us anything, it is that only diplomacy, de-escalation and credible political processes can lead to a more stable region.