Statement on the efforts for a two-state solution

Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide at meeting on the efforts for a two-state solution, including the recognition of the Palestinian State, held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 29 April 2024.

Shukran and thank you very much, your Highness Prince Faisal, for hosting us and for co-hosting this with me. And thank you very much for the strong work that you with your colleagues from the Arab group and the OIC countries have been doing for this peace vision. And thanks to everybody for coming.

We have been working closely on this, His Highness and I, and with many friends. We thought it was time to try to find a way to bridge the good work that is going on here in the region, led by the Arab group of ministers who came to Oslo and many other capitals. It is time to share ideas and continue to elaborate on their vision, or initiative. Together with those of us in Europe who would very much like to support a path to peace and a Palestinian state in the context of a two-state solution.

We are at a very critical juncture. I don't need to repeat that. We all know the horrors of what's going on in Gaza - and increasingly also in the West Bank. And, of course, also what happened in Israel before this drama is well known.

I think it is useful to reflect on this along three tracks. First is the immediate challenge of a ceasefire. How do we stop the killing? Here, good work is going on, and our friends in Qatar and Egypt and others are working on that.

Secondly, the whole issue of humanitarian access, where there's also a lot of thinking going on. I just met with the UN's Sigrid Kaag, who is a key player in that. Some of us are also working on that track.

But then comes the third issue: how do we get a political process towards a two-state solution that actually works on the table? This meeting is about this third track. And I very much want to underline that. Although we need to reflect on the other issues that's happening in other contexts right now, it is important to think about how we move forward towards Palestinian state building. How do we create a future, which is good for the Palestinian people and the Israeli people. I'm convinced we all hope they shall live in peace together when a two-state solution is found.

We're in a deep crisis. It's a crisis of Palestine. It's a crisis of Israel. It's a crisis of the entire region. But it also a crisis for the world. Because this drama affects everybody. It's really on the top of the agenda in the global discourse. The question is whether we are sincere about our principles and values. A quest for peace is very much determined by how we deal with the drama in the Middle East.

That creates an opportunity. In every crisis there is also an opportunity. I think that we should focus on the opportunity and the road to a solution. I think it will take time, but I think we need to think about it now. I disagree with those who say, let's just stop the war and then see what happens. Because 6 October, the day before 7 October, is not the solution. Just going back to where we were isn't the solution. It wasn't the solution then. It will not become a solution. We need to move forward from that.

We need to see that this drama has to be met with a rejuvenated, reinvigorated path towards an irreversible path towards a settlement. That includes the question of the security of Palestinians, the security of Israel, possible normalization with Israel and those Arab states who have not done so yet. But also how to build a Palestinian state, not only in theory, but also in practice, how to work with the new Palestinian authorities and what to do about votes in the UN and recognition. I belong to a group of countries who think that we are probably closer to the date of bilateral recognition.

But recognition is a tool. It's not an outcome. It's a tool to help something to happen. We are convinced that shaping a context is the best thing we can do. We should not only wait for a context, we should coalesce and work together to create a context and shape the context.

That's why I think this meeting of Arab and other Islamic and European ministers and their representatives is so crucially important at this time, in this place, in this moment. Because all of us in this room have power. And with power comes responsibility. I don't want to sit here or somewhere else in 10 years, reflecting on an opportunity that we did not grasp. So, the point here is that there's a crisis. There's an opportunity. And we should work together. Not much else is happening on the planet on this particular front, so we can change things.

I want this meeting to be a good start for a better dialogue between groups of countries who sincerely believe in a two-state solution, and who want to get out of just saying that as lip service to a theory, but actually create it in practice. That's why we are here.

Thank you.