Statement at AHLC Meeting 23 February

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide's statement at the AHLC video meeting chaired by Norway and the High Representative of the European Commission Josep Borrell Fontelles.

Excellencies, colleagues and friends,

It’s a great pleasure to welcome you to this meeting of the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee – the AHLC.

I would like to start by expressing my gratitude to the two co-sponsors of the AHLC: the European Union and the United States. I would also like to thank my colleague and co-host of this meeting, High Representative Josep Borrell. Thank you as well to Deputy Assistant Secretary Hady Amr for his support.

I am honoured to welcome Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, Finance Minister Shukri Bishara and Deputy Director General Haim Regev.

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Colleagues and friends,

I convene this meeting, encouraged by the resumption of cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities in November last year.

In the wider context, changes in the regional dynamics may open for renewed political processes towards the realisation of the two-state solution. Israel has normalised relations with a number of Arab countries. The new administration in Washington is reengaging with the Palestinians.

In this context, I call on the parties to reengage in direct negotiations to resolve all outstanding issues without delay. In parallel, we as a collective must advance our agenda of building the Palestinian economy and institutions.

As demonstrated in the exemplary reports provided by UNSCO, the World Bank and the Office of the Quartet, 2020 was a devastating year for the Palestinian economy. It is faced by one of its most difficult moments since the establishment of the PA. I would like to highlight three main priorities for our collective efforts:

First, the Covid-19 pandemic must be brought under control.

I commend the parties for their cooperation in combating the pandemic, and I call on them to further strengthen these efforts. We support the PA’s leading role in vaccinating the Palestinian population, in cooperation with Israel and development partners. It is also essential to provide other medical supplies, especially in Gaza. Israelis and Palestinians will only be safe when both populations are successfully vaccinated, and the Palestinian health system is able to cope.

I am glad that the PA is now receiving Covid-19-vaccines from various sources. We must collectively support the provision and distribution of the necessary number of vaccines. We must also continue emergency funding aimed at alleviating the pandemic’s impact on the population, in line with PA and UN priorities.

Second, the Palestinian economy can only recover from the current crisis if the Palestinian Authority has access to higher, stable, and predictable revenues. There is also a widespread need to create jobs.

I call on the donors to increase, and frontload, support aimed at improving the PA’s financial situation, as well as to increase their contributions to UNRWA.

More importantly, the PA needs a substantial rise in revenues from domestic sources. I encourage the parties to reengage on all the outstanding fiscal issues and agree on solutions. We will review the progress made when we hold our next meeting, in September. And let me emphasise, however, that the PA will never have a sustainable economy unless the Palestinians have control over and access to their land and resources as well as their trade.

Third, donor-financed projects must continue.

There are several projects that have made progress since we last met. They are crucial for building basic infrastructure for energy, water, waste-water treatment, telecommunications, and production and trade. We are pleased that the fuel tank financed by Norway at the Gaza Power Plant is near completion. I welcome Qatar’s pledge to deliver fuel for the rest of the year, in cooperation with UNOPS.

I support the PA's efforts to assume increased responsibility for the population in Gaza. The humanitarian challenges in Gaza are dire and we need to address them. The Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism is crucial for facilitating the entry of critical materials for infrastructure projects and for the private sector and it must be funded.

Colleagues and friends,

I welcome the elections scheduled in Palestine this year. I encourage all relevant actors to contribute to their success. The full participation of women and youth in the electoral process is essential. The Palestinian people deserve a state that is democratic and unified, whose government is accountable to its citizens, and based on the rule of law, with security, equal rights and opportunities for all.

Building on constructive steps by both parties, I call on them to refrain from all unilateral actions that undermine the prospects of a viable two-state solution, such as annexation of territory, settlement activity, house demolitions, violence, and incitement. I encourage them to take tangible steps to build trust and to show commitment to negotiating a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Despite all the challenges, there is cause for cautious optimism.

Thank you very much.