Opening statement by Minister Eide at meeting on implementing the Two-State solution

Opening statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Espen Barth Eide at meeting on 'Efforts to Implement the Two-State solution, including the question of recognition', Brussels, 26 May 2024.

Very pleased to welcome you all to this meeting here in Brussels today, which I have the honour to host together with my dear friend His Royal Highness Prins Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and with EU High Representative and Vice-President Josep Borrell Fontelles.

Today’s meeting is a sequel to the meeting in Riyadh a month ago. A group of ministers came to see some of us Northern European ministers already back in December. What has emerged since then is an even more dramatic situation in Gaza, with the terrible loss of life, fear and starvation. It is a really serious situation. There is also a clear evolution into an increasingly detrimental situation in the West Bank. And people in Israel live in fear and shock after what happened on 7 October. What we have seen is the emergence of a spiral of violence, which, if it is allowed to continue, will take us from bad to even worse. We need to get out of this dire situation.

Many of us were just a few hours ago in the international partners meeting with the Prime Minister of Palestine and most of the key donors. The Prime Minister will join us in a few minutes, but we heard a very credible and solid presentation of the extremely difficult situation for the Palestinian economy. The Palestinian Authority is financially very weak. Israel is undermining its banking stability by holding back money which pertains to Palestine. This is actually Palestinian money.

I think we all came out of that meeting with a strong sense of, on the one hand, what has not yet happened in the West Bank, because of some kind of control in the attitudes of people. The way people have been behaving can easily move into a much worse situation than we are in. If we are not in trouble now, which I think we are, it will be real trouble.

On the other hand, we have a new Palestinian government, 7 weeks old. They are presenting, in my view, and I think the view of most donors, credible and sincere plans for how to strengthen the capacity of delivering key services to the people, for necessary reforms, and also with ideas about how to govern in Gaza in the long run.

So this was the meeting we just had. When I organized my own thoughts about the situation in Palestine and in the Middle East more broadly, I try to group the issues into three:

Firstly, there is the issue of ceasefire, how do we stop the fighting, the dying, the killing, but also the rockets coming into Israel as we heard about even today. How can we stop the actual war and the deaths and the killing in Gaza. That's one cluster of issues which requires urgent attention of course, including the release of hostages.

Secondly, there is another cluster of important issues relating to humanitarian support. Both humanitarian support right now while things are as they are, but also what can happen after a ceasefire. Together with Sameh Shoukry of Egypt and Ayman Safadi of Jordan, the UN Secretary General, and many others, we’re also working on that set of issues.

Thirdly, there is a set of issues pertaining to how to get to a credible political settlement, how to get to a two-state solution. If there is one piece of good news in this horrible situation, it’s that the belief, the understanding, the recognition, that there is no credible alternative to a two-state solution, has grown. It has grown because new countries are taking that position. It has also grown because countries that did have that position but maybe did not do very much to promote it, are now more forthcoming and more willing to actually promote a two-state solution. A two-state solution requires a Palestinian state. There is already an Israeli state. But this is unfinished business actually for 76 years, at least since the Oslo Accords.

Some of us; Spain, Ireland, and Norway, and I would in that context thank for the good cooperation with Ireland, but also remember that the Oslo process came out of the Madrid meeting of 1991. There was a link already then, trying to set this on the track to go to Oslo. Some of those countries who were quite active then are now thinking that we need to go beyond that. There are different views about that particular issue. But when we left each other those of us who were together in Riyadh three weeks ago, I used a metaphor which I will repeat, and I hope it's understandable.

I think of a regional peace in the Middle East, a credible peaceful solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live peaceful lives in their own state and with each other. It is like a big puzzle and it is a puzzle where many of the pieces are known, or you can actually see what the puzzle will look like in the end, more or less. But there are some critical pieces that have not been laid, because I might have one and you might have one and a third party might have one and everybody has been waiting for somebody else to put that piece first. I think what we've seen working with our very close friends in the OIC-Arab group is that there are ideas that are not necessarily brand new, but they are put together in 2024 fashion. Some ideas about how we can actually have a combination of a series of different moves where there is something for everyone in it, and then these pieces at some point will have to be laid so that the puzzle is complete.

I believe that we are either on the doorstep of some gradual improvement of the situation, by creating a new hope for the moderate forces in the region, in Palestine, and also in Israel; or we are looking into an abyss which is even darker and deeper than what we have seen even now. And I really believe that this is now. This choice has to happen now. That is what brings us together here. So I co-host this meeting again with my good friend His Highness Prince Faisal, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia. I will now turn over to him.