UNSC: Middle East Crisis

Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Ine Eriksen Søreide, at the Security Council Open debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, 16 May 2021.

Thank you to both Secretary General Guterres and Special Coordinator Wennesland for your briefings.

Since the Council last met on Wednesday, May 12, the situation on the ground has deteriorated significantly. As the Secretary General has elaborated on, the civilian losses are increasing.

As stated in our two earlier meetings this week, Norway is deeply worried about the situation, including the risks of further escalation. We call, again, for de-escalation. We continue to condemn the rocket attacks by Hamas and other groups towards the civil population in Israel. They are unacceptable, and we recognize Israel’s right to self-defence. At the same time, we urge Israel to ensure proportionality in its response and to show the utmost restraint in order to protect civilians in line with international humanitarian law.

Repeatedly, Norway has condemned all attacks against civilians. I am appalled by the death of a large number of children. Children are never a legitimate target and must be protected from harm. In addition, comes tremendous psychosocial stress. Hundreds of families are forced to flee their homes and furthermore, 35 schools in Gaza and 3 schools in Israel have been damaged in the violence. All parties have a duty to protect children.

Yesterday's attack which struck the premises of several media outlets in Gaza is deeply troubling. A free and independent press has an important role to play in providing fact-based reporting from the conflict zones and has the right to be protected.

Mr President,

There is an urgent need for cessation of hostilities and an immediate ceasefire. We I welcome all efforts to achieve this, including by neighbouring countries. We call for 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.

Mr President,

Jerusalem is sacred to three religions and two peoples and therefore mobilizes believers across regions and all over the world. The Israeli authorities have a special duty to safeguard the rights of believers at the holy sites of East Jerusalem and to ensure that the historical status quo at the Holy Esplanade is respected. We expect the rights of all residents of Jerusalem to be upheld in accordance with international law.

The events now unfolding in Gaza do not happen in a vacuum. We also therefore have to address the underlying issues of this crisis.  The risk of forced evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem is fuelling the conflict and contributing to a further escalation of an extremely tense situation.

As repeatedly expressed by this Council, most recently in resolution 2334 (2016), all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international humanitarian law. This includes forced evictions and confiscation of Palestinian property.

Mr President,

As long as there is no peace – no two-state solution – civilians will continue to suffer. Renewed efforts to re-start negotiations towards a two-state solution are urgently needed.

In closing, let me again emphasize the importance of Council action. This is our third Council meeting on the matter this week, and we are all fully informed about the developments on the ground.

It is now vital that the Council speaks with one voice to address the situation. And Mr. President, Norway stands ready to work with all Council members to find suitable language for expressing our deep concern for the situation, calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a ceasefire, and re-confirming our support for the two-state solution.