Norway has persistently supported President Mahmoud Abbas in his efforts to foster democracy, stability and peace in the Palestinian Territory. We supported his decision to form a National Unity Government, which was meant to break a dangerous impasse and prepare the ground for renewed negotiations with Israel. We also supported his decision – under extremely difficult conditions – to declare a state of emergency and appoint a new government led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
This new government is committed to the political platform of President Abbas, which reflects the Quartet principles. This platform supports peaceful negotiations as the only viable means to achieving a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security with Israel. The new government has enabled the resumption of political dialogue with Israel and normal relations with the international donor community.
Norway welcomes the willingness of Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas to broach difficult and substantial issues. We urge both leaders to demonstrate leadership and courage in order to bring lasting peace to both their peoples. We – the international community – must support their efforts. At the same time, we should also support Prime Minister Fayyad’s efforts to normalise the situation on the ground and to improve living conditions for ordinary Palestinians. This must go hand in hand with the political dialogue with Israel.
Norway believes that in the long term, comprehensive and lasting peace cannot be achieved through isolating a major popular movement. Palestinian national reconciliation is essential to achieving political stability and healing divisions. Regardless of how such reconciliation efforts develop, all legitimate structures under President Abbas should be re-established and strengthened. All parallel and illegitimate structures should be dissolved.
The Government of Prime Minister Fayyad faces serious challenges, particularly in the security sector. We condemn rocket attacks on Israel. We reiterate our demand that such attacks must be halted.
The Palestinian economy has been crippled by years of conflict and by the Israeli regime of checkpoints and closures. The humanitarian situation remains very difficult, especially for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Isolated and closed off from the outside world, the Gaza Strip could eventually become entirely dependent on foreign aid. Such isolation and destitution will only provide fertile breeding-ground for more extremism.
We welcome the decision of the Government of Israel to transfer withheld Palestinian taxes and revenues, and urge the Government to continue such transfers on a regular basis. It is also essential that Israel ease restrictions on the movement of persons and on the transfer of goods, and that Israel implements the 2005 Agreement on Access and Movement. Israel should also take effective measures to halt settlement expansion. Such steps are necessary to build confidence which in turn will facilitate the peace process.
Norway has long called for a regional approach to the peace process. We need broad engagement by countries in the region to follow multiple tracks and to address all issues. We therefore support the determination of the Arab League to revitalise its peace initiative. The Arab-Israeli peace process needs support and engagement by its Arab neighbours.
We welcome the announcement by the President of the United States to hold, in November of this year, an international meeting in support of the two-state solution. A strong commitment by the United States is crucial for further progress.
The international community should foster positive developments on the ground in order to support the political dialogue. Norway, in its capacity as Chair of the donor forum – the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee – has therefore invited AHLC members to meet at ministerial level here, at the United Nations in New York, on 24 September. The September meeting should send a strong signal to President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad that the international community is committed to cooperating with and assisting the Palestinian Authority. The main purpose of the AHLC meeting is to prepare and set the stage for a broad-based international pledging conference in December. The meeting will also provide an opportunity for close cooperation and coordination between the Quartet and the AHLC.
Three major, international meetings are planned this autumn to discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict. There is a chance for progress and results. Spoilers should not get the upper hand again, and diminish the chance of stability and peace in the Middle East.