Speech/statement | Date: 02/06/2020 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Foreign Minister Eriksen Søreide’s opening statement at the the international donor group for Palestine (AHLC) meeting 2 June 2020.
Dear Excellencies, Colleagues and friends,
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to this meeting of the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee – the AHLC.
I would like to especially thank my colleague, co-chair of the AHLC and co-host of this meeting, High Representative Josep Borrell, who was supposed to host us in Brussels in April. Let me also extend a warm welcome to Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, and Finance Minister Shukri Bishara and to Director-General Yuval Rotem.
Even though the coronavirus pandemic prevents us from meeting physically, I am pleased to see all of us gathered around a virtual meeting table today.
I very much look forward to a fruitful exchange of views here this afternoon. We will begin with an opening segment with interventions from core parties and presentations of the reports by the United Nations and the World Bank to this meeting. I will then open the floor for statements from AHLC delegations.
Colleagues and friends,
When we last met in New York in September, I opened my statement by describing the uncertain and unpredictable nature of the situation. This description is no less true of the situation today. From this vantage point, it is a good time to revisit the original mandate of the AHLC and ask ourselves some fundamental questions about the direction in which we are moving.
The AHLC was established in the aftermath of the Oslo Agreements in 1993 to act as a framework of cooperation between the parties and the donor community. The efforts of the AHLC have been focused on Palestinian economic development and the building of the institutions of a Palestinian state – never as a substitute for a lasting peace – but as essential conditions for achieving a negotiated two-state solution.
There is a strong international consensus that only a negotiated two-state solution can lead to a just and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
For decades, the donors have followed up their political commitments with significant financial assistance. Through this mobilization and cooperation, significant progress has been made on Palestinian economic development and institution building. Donors have also provided humanitarian assistance and contributed to the provision of basic services to the people of Gaza through the Palestinian Authority, UNRWA and other organizations.
The donors have maintained political and financial support even during periods of increased tensions, political setbacks and violent confrontations.
However, despite achievements made, and despite the international community’s steadfast commitment, our common goal will not be fully realized without a lasting political settlement of the conflict.
Palestinian economic and institutional development is constrained by a combination of factors, including lack of access to land and resources, impediments to access and movement, and legal restrictions and decisions that sharply limit the PA’s fiscal autonomy.
Israeli statements to annex parts of the West Bank are of deep concern. Any such move, if implemented, would be in contravention of international law, detrimental to the goal of a viable and just two-state solution and undermine peace and security in the region.
The declaration by the Palestinian leadership in response to this, that it will discontinue cooperation with Israel and the US at all levels and suspend agreements, calls into question the very foundation upon which the donors base their assistance.
Credible and substantive negotiations between the parties – and a lasting peace – are essential to the creation of a sustainable Palestinian economy and robust institutions. There have been no such negotiations since 2014.
Colleagues and friends,
Even though there are major obstacles, we remain committed to our agenda, but we all need to do better. This is what I ask you to consider:
- The donors should increase and re-focus their budget support and other support to the PA in line with Palestinian priorities.
- Issues such as lack of access to land and resources, impediments to access and movement, and legal restrictions and decisions that sharply limit the PA’s fiscal autonomy, must be resolved. The issue of prisoners’ payments must also be addressed.
- The donors should disburse their announced contributions to UNRWA without delay, and pledge further support to the programme budget and emergency appeals, including at the upcoming UNRWA donors conference scheduled for 23 June.
- The parties must resolve outstanding fiscal issues, and further develop agreements, arrangements, including their trading, and labour relationships. A mechanism to ensure continued correspondent banking relations must be implemented without further delay.
- The donors should continue financing and supporting the Palestinian response to the COVID-19 crisis and UN response plans, in particular assistance to the public health sector.
- The donors should continue their financing of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism.
- The PA should continue to reduce monthly spending while reorienting its expenditures around emergency health services and direct support to affected households, workers, and private sector firms, and continue providing basic services to the Palestinian population and salaries to employees in the public sector. Funds to the education and health sector, including medical supplies, both in the West Bank and Gaza, are of particular importance.
- In order for the Gazan economy to restart, access and movement should be facilitated, including supply lines of medical goods, relevant equipment, materials, humanitarian workers etc. especially to Gaza.
- The PA should continue to prioritize implementation of programmes in Gaza both directly and through the organizations such as the UN who already have presence and capacity there. Since 2008 the PA’s monthly transfers to Gaza has been the most important element to support the economy of Gaza.
Colleagues and friends,
The donors have clearly expressed their willingness to continue their efforts to support Palestinian institution and state-building. Together we have reaffirmed our commitment to a negotiated two-state solution as the only viable path to a just and lasting peace. With this strong commitment by the international community, it is time for the parties to reverse the trends that threaten and impede economic and political progress, and take credible steps to resume a political process that can resolve the outstanding political issues of the conflict – and lead to a lasting peace.