Thank you to Special Coordinator Wennesland for your briefing.
From the Oslo-accords on, Norway has been a consistent partner for building Palestine as a free, democratic, and prosperous state; with security, the rule of law, and living in peace and mutual recognition with Israel.
We therefore welcome the announcement of Palestinian elections. The expectations of the Palestinian people are high, and it is essential that the elections are executed as planned. We are encouraged by the Palestinian people’s great enthusiasm for what will be the this first election for many years, and note that more women than before are included on lists as candidates.
We have urged the Palestinian Authority to take steps also to better include youth. The dialogue between factions to ensure that elections are held in a free, fair, and competitive manner is encouraging. We have urged the PA and Israel to cooperate to facilitate the elections, abiding by their commitments in the Oslo II Accord.
Here in this Council - and in all our engagements before and after the elections - we must make our best efforts to support the Palestinian people toward a legitimate government in Palestine.
I would like to reiterate our expectation that any Palestinian government - in its composition and political platform - provide a good basis for cooperation with partners, and the pursuit of state-building and peace efforts. We expect Palestinian governments to adhere to the PLO’s commitments in previous agreements both through their words, and their actions. In these agreements the PLO recognises Israel’s right to exist, and commits to upholding non-violence and continuing peaceful negotiations.
Norway remains ready to contribute to the resumption of meaningful negotiations towards a political solution. And we hope that successful Palestinian elections will contribute to such an end; as well as strengthening the cooperation between parties.
While it may be too early to define the format or modalities of such negotiations; it is increasingly urgent to solve the territorial issues before settlement expansions, and other developments, totally undermine the two-state vision. Negotiations should build on the previous agreements between the parties, and be based on international law, the relevant Security Council resolutions, and internationally agreed parameters.
We remain concerned about: the continued negative developments relating to settlement activities, including demolitions and evictions; as well as the incidents, and violence against civilians, as reported by Special Coordinator Wennesland. The plans to evict 37 families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan in East Jerusalem are particularly worrying.
Norway is however, encouraged by progress on issues that were highlighted at the last meeting of the AHLC in February. And which will be at the agenda for the forthcoming ministerial meeting during this autumn.
More and more Palestinians are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. We commend the PA for rolling out its vaccination programme, Israel for facilitating vaccine distribution and for vaccinating Palestinians, and the UN and the international community for its crucial logistical and other support. While this is all encouraging, there is still an urgent need for support for increased access to vaccines.
Several crucial projects to build basic infrastructure across Palestine are also showing progress- in particular in the area of water, sanitation, and energy. They will benefit all Palestinians, and ensure that Gaza continues to be habitable. In this respect, we call on the parties to sign the long-due, and nearly finished technical agreements. Agreements are needed to make significant progress in several key projects regarding customs, water, electricity, and others.
Norway also calls on the donors to persevere in their financial and technical support. We welcome the willingness of several donors to take the lead in coordinating support within key sectors- including the efforts to better balance the fiscal and financial situation for the PA.
In closing, let me welcome the US decision to resume economic, development, and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians, including through UNRWA. We urge other donors to step up and contribute towards securing the continued work of UNRWA for Palestine refugees.