Statement at the Conference for peace in the Middle East

Statement by Foreign Minister Børge Brende at the Conference for peace in the Middle East in Paris, 15 January 2017.

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Chair, Ministers, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Let me start by thanking France for organizing this conference.

There are three important takeaways from this conference:

First, the international community reaffirms that a negotiated two-state solution with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, is the only way to achieve a durable peace. 

Second, both parties should restate their commitments to the two-state solution, and take urgent steps in order to reverse current negative trends on the ground, including settlement activity and continued acts of violence, and start meaningful process of direct negotiations. The latter is not a slogan. The outstanding issues between the parties are complex and deeply intertwined with each other – needless to say, they require negotiations and compromises.

Third, the international community certainly has a role to play in this conflict. But no international mechanism can substitute the responsibility of the parties to resolve the conflict. The international community should assist the parties in advancing the two-state solution on the basis of existing agreements and relevant UN resolutions.

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These three takeaways from the conference are important to us. They have been the guidelines for our own longstanding contribution in building and developing Palestinian institutions since the Oslo Accords.

The French initiative is corresponding with what we as the Chair of the donor group for Palestine – the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee – the AHLC – has been doing over the past decades.

 

The AHLC is the only existing international mechanism where both parties meet regularly and engage in a serious dialogue to resolve outstanding economic issues through cooperation and compromise. And most importantly, despite a protracted stalemate between the parties in the peace process, they have been able through the regular processes of the AHLC to make progress and deliver concrete results. The agreement on transferring the authority of the electricity sector to the Palestinian Authority is one recent example.  

The AHLC as a state-building project has never been an alternative to any peace agreement, but to the contrary – a necessary condition for it. Economic development and institution-building cannot substitute any peace agreement between the parties. But long term institution-building has been a political project in the sense that it has always underpinned the overarching goal to realize the two-state solution.

The essence of the AHLC is to prepare Palestinian institutions for statehood, and make the Palestinian economy as sustainable as possible and to support the PA in providing public services to the Palestinian people.

The logic of it is that Palestinians, Israelis and the international community all have responsibilities and commitments. First, Israel has been committed in easing restrictions and resolving outstanding economic issues with the PA. Second, the PA has been committed to implement necessary reforms, and thirdly the donors have remained committed to financially support the Palestinian institutions.

In short: since the institution-building started in 1993, a lot has been achieved. It proves that economic cooperation between the parties combined with long-term donor support can yield positive results.

It is crucial that the parties continue to resolve other outstanding economic issues and agree on key infrastructure projects, in particular water and energy in Gaza. Such a trajectory is consistent with the letter and spirit of the Oslo Accords, and vital for transition towards more authority and stronger financial viability of the PA.

Norway is actively engaged in supporting the parties to make further progress on strengthening the Palestinian institutions and sustaining the Palestinian economy. The donors too, need to realize that the PA will not be able to close the current financing gap by itself, partly due to a significant drop in budget support.

Finally, the dire humanitarian and security situation in Gaza cannot be addressed by international development assistance alone. Access and movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, including access to labor and trade markets remain crucial.

Thank you