Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Espen Barth Eide in the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.
Thank you, Madam President.
And thank you to France for convening us today at this crucially important moment for the Middle East.
My thoughts are with the people of Gaza, who not only are fleeing from bombardment and military confrontations, but also are suffering from increasing malnutrition. From lack of medical facilities. From lack of clean water. It is a deep humanitarian crisis. One of the most dramatic in recent times, as we have heard from the Secretary General and all the UN agencies that are involved in the process. My thoughts are with the people of Gaza.
My thoughts are with the people of Israel who suffered the horrible, heinous attack of Hamas on October 7th, including the use of sexual and all other types of violence. And my thoughts are with the hostages and relatives of hostages. I call for the immediate release of all the hostages.
My thoughts are also with the people of the West Bank, who are experiencing increasing violence, including settler violence and increased danger to their lives. Nothing would be more tragic - as we try to move forward on a peaceful path - than seeing a collapse also there - on the West Bank.
And last but not least, my thoughts are with all the UN workers and all the people of the humanitarian community, who are struggling to uphold services. Many of whom have lost their life.
International humanitarian law has to be respected. Violations are unacceptable. If we start accepting violations of clear rules of humanitarian law, the rules will lose their meaning. And the they will be harder to uphold in future conflicts. Humanitarian law has to be upheld equally, across similar situations.
Norway was among the first Western countries to call for a sustained and enduring humanitarian ceasefire. We still do. I'm happy to see that more countries are coming along.
We call for a radical step up of humanitarian efforts, not only volumes. I will echo the Secretary-General in pointing out that we cannot only count trucks. We also must look at the content, the efficiency, the access throughout the whole territory of Gaza. And we must improve coordination. Norway welcomes the appointment of Sigrid Kaag in her new, crucially important and really difficult role.
These are imperatives and we have to get them done. They are prerequisites for any further action. But I also agree with all those who say that these measures are not solutions in themselves. They are necessary. They are imperatives. But the solution must be political. The solution requires that we get back on the political track. A track Norway has been trying to support for more than three decades after the Oslo process.
As the chair of the AHLC, we see the clear need for a political track towards Palestinian statehood. Norway recognizes the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to have their own state. Not only in theory, but also in practice. We believe that the quest for a Palestinian state is good for the Palestinian people, but also for the people of Israel. We do believe that it is the only route towards a situation in which both communities, both societies, can live in peace with themselves, and each other. And we underline - as we always do - that Israel has the right to necessary security guarantees. Just like the Palestinian people has that right. It must be one, united Palestinian governance for both Gaza and the West Bank, under the Palestinian Authority.
In order to get there, we also have to make sure that we strengthen and help further develop the Palestinian Authority and its institutions. Norway has now made itself available to assist in the transfer of the taxes and levies collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Because the PA has to be upheld and survive this terribly difficult situation. We need legitimate, credible institutions to run the entire Palestinian territory in the future.
I want to commend the good work that is being done by several ministers - many of whom are in this room - from Arab countries and other OIC countries, in trying to develop a comprehensive plan. I believe it is very important that we think about the presence, the near future and the long future. We need to have a credible vision, a credible horizon towards Palestinian statehood.
Norway believes, that pursuing a path to Palestinian statehood should be connected to the idea of broader regional peace, and a regional settlement with the necessary and legitimate security guarantees for both Israel and Palestine.
This Council was set up to deal with exactly these issues, exactly these kind of challenges. I call on all members of the Council to act, and to take that responsibility seriously. In the midst of this deep crisis we see immense suffering in Gaza. We have seen the terror attacks on Israel. We see the rising tide of violence in the Middle East and the risk of spread to the Red Sea and Lebanon and to other parts of the region.
But this is also an opportunity. This is a moment of opportunity for the international community to come together and stop the fighting. To deal with the legitimate security concerns of all sides. To help build a Palestinian state. And then take us all towards a two state solution, which would solve many of the challenges of Israel, of Palestine and of the neighborhood.
I call on you to take on yourself the responsibility that you were entrusted with when we elected the members of the Security Council. This is really the moment to grasp the opportunity.
I thank you for your attention.