Today in Brussels, Ms Eriksen Søreide chaired a meeting of the international donor group for Palestine, known as the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini serving as host. PA Finance Minister Shoukry Bishara led the Palestinian delegation, which also included Mazen Ghunaim, head of the Palestinian Water Authority. Israel’s delegation included representatives of the country’s key ministries. The largest donor countries to Palestine were also represented.
‘In the next few months the donors, in close cooperation with both the Palestinians and the Israelis, will contribute to a strengthening of the infrastructure in Gaza,’ the Foreign Minister said. ‘The intent is for more energy and water to be brought in and produced there. To succeed, it is imperative to ease the restrictions on importing materials into Gaza. This is also crucial for the ability to increase goods exports out of Gaza as well as to allow more people the opportunity to travel in and out. Egypt is an important partner in this work.’
Since the extraordinary meeting of the donor group on 31 January much work has been done, in a constructive atmosphere, to prepare the projects that are now commencing.
The humanitarian situation for Gaza’s two million people is becoming more and more serious. The unemployment rate is among the highest in the world, and economic activity has stalled. The population lacks purchasing power and is almost entirely dependent on outside help. Additional supplies of energy and water are necessary for both health and economic reasons.
‘The authorities in Palestine are demonstrating good discipline in managing the economy. But the budget situation is demanding. Norway will be maintaining its support for the Palestinian Authority and I have called on other donors to assist economically,’ Ms Eriksen Søreide said.
The international donor group emphatically urged the parties to resume political negotiations to resolve outstanding final-status issues and make the two-state solution a reality.
‘The donors underscored the special importance of ending the political split between Gaza and the West Bank, and of the Palestinian Authority regaining control of Gaza,’ said the Foreign Minister.