Utenriksministerens innledning til ministermøtet for giverlandsgruppen for Palestina (AHLC).
Opening statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Ms Anniken Huitfeldt
Colleagues and friends,
It is a privilege to welcome you all to Oslo. A warm welcome to Prime Minister Shtayyeh, Finance Minister Bishara and to Minister for Regional Cooperation Frej.
I would like to thank the delegations for their productive preparations for this meeting. A special thanks to the UN, the World Bank, the IMF and the Office of the Quartet for their invaluable reports.
We are holding this meeting on historic ground. The Declaration of Principles was agreed in Oslo in 1993. In 1994, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Yassir Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres in this very hall. The award was intended to honour a political act which called for great courage on both sides.
The three leaders referred to the ‘Oslo spirit’ – a spirit of hope and courage and the will to build a better future.
Today, we must invoke this same spirit.
I am deeply concerned about the situation both in the West Bank and in Gaza. During eight years with no political talks, we have seen two major escalations of violence and widespread devastation in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority is no longer able to meet its financial obligations.
I would like to focus on the following points:
First, I urge the Israelis and the Palestinians to work together to strengthen the Palestinian Authority’s economy and institutions. This is a matter of necessity. The financial support from the international donors is simply not sufficient.
Neither party can afford the consequences of another major crisis.
I welcome the emergency measures introduced by Israel to keep the PA financially afloat. And I commend the PA for its strict fiscal discipline. Both are essential, but they are far from enough. After years of financial difficulties, we need a plan for increasing PA’s income and balancing its budget. We need reforms both in Palestine and in the economic relations between the parties.
Second, it is vital to restore a long-term calm to Gaza and to reduce tensions in the West-Bank. In both places, people need jobs, development and hope.
I welcome the resumption of high-level contact between Israel and the PA. The renewed dialogue must provide tangible results on the ground:
- Jobs in Israel are required.
- Access to energy and water must be improved.
- Trade must increase, and the Palestinian private sector must grow.
- Gaza must be reopened.
Third, we need a consistent strategy.
The strategy must aim to reduce the conflict and to roll back the restrictions on Palestinian life imposed by the occupation. At present, the burden of the occupation is damaging the hope of a two-state solution and peace. The strategy should seek to strengthen the Palestinian Authority as the only legitimate authority.
Under this strategy, there must be an end to actions that undermine the PA, whether these are political, financial, or military. There can be no room for attempts to reduce the space for civil society and political opposition. Or to expand settlements on occupied land, incite violence, or spread hate speech. Nor can there be room for actions that will prolong the harmful split between the West Bank and Gaza.
Fourth, we know what needs to be done. We know how to provide sufficient energy and safe water to all Palestinians. We know how to treat wastewater for re-use, how to create thousands of jobs, stop tax leaks, and revise the Paris Protocol. We can do all of this if we work together.
I call on the international community – especially those of you who are represented here – to support these efforts and provide increased funding and expertise. We cannot give up on our commitment to building viable institutions and a vibrant economy in Palestine. We must not turn our backs on the vision of a negotiated two-state solution.
In the meeting here in Oslo, I hear that both parties came to the meeting with positive attitudes – honouring the “Oslo spirit” I mentioned earlier. Here, you define a constructive plan for how to get out of the dangerous situation we see today. I commend you for this important achievement. May we continue to find the courage and the will to make further progress. Let’s go back to work.