Thank you President, and thank you to the briefers: Special Coordinator Wennesland, Commissioner General Lazzarini, and Professor Khalidi for your valuable contributions.
It is now almost one week ago that a ceasefire agreement was reached between Israel and Hamas, following the efforts of Egypt, Qatar, the UN, the US, and other regional and international actors.
During 11 days of fighting, we saw thousands of rockets being fired by Hamas and other militant groups from Gaza into Israel, as well as heavy Israeli bombardment of Gaza.
Norway has, and continues to, condemn all attacks against civilians.
As the Special Coordinator has elaborated, the civilian casualties have been significant, and children have been especially affected. It is now imperative that the ceasefire is fully implemented and respected by all parties.
Furthermore, priority must be given to providing humanitarian aid to the civilian population of Gaza. We call for the rapid, safe, and unimpeded access for humanitarian actors to bring in food, health services, and other humanitarian relief, including essential goods like fuel and gas. As announced last week, Norway will increase our humanitarian support in Palestine to a total of more than 12 million US dollars in 2021. As a major donor to the UN Central Emergency Fund, we are also contributing USD 4,5 million through CERF’s recent allocation for the humanitarian response in Gaza.
Although we have all been focused on achieving a swift end to this latest conflict, we should not forget the underlying issues. This escalation did not appear in a vacuum. As long as the Israeli occupation continues, and there is no political process toward a solution, conflicts like these will continue to flare up regularly. The clashes in East Jerusalem - including on the Haram al Sharif / Temple Mount - as well as the possible evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, illustrate how the current situation is not sustainable. We continue to follow the tense situation in the West Bank with great concern.
The parties, as well as the international community, should take this opportunity to intensify efforts to re-start negotiations towards the two-state solution. We recognise the Quartet’s important role in this regard, as well as countries in the region.
We must continue our efforts to strengthen the institutional foundations for the two-state solution.
As Chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, Norway remains focused on the state-building agenda, on and the efforts of donors and partners to strengthen the Palestinian economy, and improve the fiscal situation for the Palestinian Authority. Since 2014, this agenda has also included the reconstruction of Gaza, and on improving the life of its inhabitants.
As the people of Gaza again face tremendous destruction and humanitarian needs, we must all base our response on the fact that the Gaza Strip is, and will remain, an integral part of Palestine.
Our efforts to address the enormous needs of Gaza should be guided by our goal of contributing to the building of Palestine, and our efforts must help ensure calm and security for all civilians.
The AHLC remains the best suited mechanism for coordinating assistance to Gaza. It brings together the parties, donors, and development partners. It brings a holistic view on Palestine’s development and governance needs, with the PA at the centre.
Norway will convene working meetings on expert level to align priorities, and make recommendations as soon as the UN and the World Bank can present their assessment of damage and needs. We will assess how structures and mechanisms already financed and in operation, such as the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, can be continued and necessary amendments made.
We also reconfirm our intention to convene an AHLC meeting at ministerial level in late September or early October in collaboration with the co-sponsors, the EU, the US, as well as regional and other partners.
I will finish with a few words about the Council’s role. We are pleased that the Council was able to agree, on May 22, a press statement to welcome the ceasefire and call for humanitarian assistance. It is crucial that the Council speaks with one voice on issues like these.
The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. And people on the ground listen to what the Council says – and what it does not say.
The Council therefore bears a heavy responsibility to live up to its mandate, and the expectations of people affected by conflict. Norway will continue our efforts to contribute to Council action, and to finding solutions.