Thank you for this opportunity to address the Security Council on the critical situation in Gaza.
As Norwegian Foreign Minister, I add my voice to all those who demand an immediate effective and viable ceasefire and cessation of hostilities.
Hamas’s launching of rockets targeting civilians inside Israel must stop.
Israel’s shelling of Gaza from air, sea and land must stop.
Norway condemns the heavy ground operations exposing thousands and thousands of civilians, killing innocent women, men and children.
This escalation will not lead to peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians. It is the dreadful road to death, destruction, hatred and more desperation. It is the recipe for revenge and more terror.
Political goals, as legitimate as they may be, will not be reached through war, military onslaught and destruction.
There will come a day after this war. And on that day the people of Gaza and Israel will still be living next to each other.
Palestinians will still be deprived of their unity and their state, and Israelis will still be deprived of their security.
The Security Council, which has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, has so far been incapable of making any decision in the matter. This is a fact that I have a hard time explaining to the people of my country, who – together with hundreds of millions around the world – see the TV images of grave human suffering day in, day out. Today, the news of the shelling of a school, where people had sought refuge, shocked us even more.
I therefore place my hope in the French-Egyptian initiative for an immediate ceasefire. As that initiative takes shape, I hope that the details will be confirmed by a Security Council resolution.
A ceasefire, Mr President, must not be a return to the status quo ante, and therefore a ceasefire and a political process must address the critical outstanding issues:
A stop to the smuggling and clandestine imports of arms and accessories,
the immediate opening of border crossings for urgent humanitarian needs,
and the subsequent presence of international monitors.
At the same time we need to address the challenge of new and urgent human needs caused by the current violence.
That is also why I would like to take the opportunity this evening to address the Security Council as Chair of the donor support group to the Palestinian Authority, the AHLC.
As you will remember, just one year ago, Norway and France, together with the European Commission and Quartet Representative Tony Blair, hosted a donor conference for the Palestinians in Paris.
This was a successful undertaking. The donor community pledged significant funds, both for the running of PA institutions and for projects that could help boost the Palestinian economy.
In May last year, in London, the AHLC reviewed the progress made by both the PA and the donors. Four months later we noted further progress when we convened the AHLC here in New York, despite the numerous obstacles created by the occupation, the restrictions on access and movement, and the growing number of settlements on Palestinian land.
Throughout the last few years Gaza has been a major concern, not least because of internal Palestinian strife and division, but also as a result of the Israeli siege of the enclave.
Before the outbreak of war, the isolation of Gaza had devastated the private sector, increased poverty and malnutrition, and undermined the social and economic fabric of Gaza.
The civilian population has been caged in and severely traumatised. As the ongoing war escalates, the already insufficient supplies of water and energy have more or less completely stopped. The main sewage plant in the north of Gaza is on the verge of collapse.
We urgently need to address this humanitarian disaster.
Two days ago I received a letter from PA Prime Minister Fayyad outlining the budgetary outlook for the PA in 2009. Despite some limited progress, the Palestinian economy will, deplorably, continue to depend on donors for a long time to come.
Now we need to add the consequences of the devastation in Gaza, and the dire consequences war is having for the people, for the infrastructure and for the economy.
In consultation with Prime Minister Fayyad and the co-chairs of the AHLC, Norway originally planned to convene the AHLC sometime during the first half of 2009. In the present circumstances, I propose that the AHLC be convened as soon as possible.
The situation is new and requires urgent action. The humanitarian needs must be relieved. I ask for your support for a special donor conference for Gaza in conjunction with this AHLC meeting.
When hostilities cease, we need to start assessing the needs, both immediate and long-term. These will have to be determined by a World Bank and UN-led fact finding and assessment mission.
But we must immediately seek to ease the suffering of the civilian population.
International humanitarian law is crystal clear: civilians must be protected.
It is unacceptable that Hamas is exposing civilians to risk by bringing their military arsenal and the fighting to densely populated areas.
We call on Israel to comply with its obligation under the Geneva Conventions to allow unhindered access of humanitarian supplies to Gaza.
We urgently call on Israel to ensure unhindered access and distribution of food, water and medicines to the civilian population of Gaza.
We must enable the most effective providers of humanitarian assistance to conduct their activities. UNWRA is critical in this context.
And let me add, since the beginning of hostilities, independent reporters have been denied access to the war zone. This is regrettable and unacceptable. We demand that Israel allow reporters to do their regular work inside Gaza.
The division among Palestinians is a tragedy. Let me commend President Mubarak and the Egyptian Government for their steadfast efforts to heal this division, a division for which the citizens of Gaza already have paid a high price.
The question of governance of Gaza must be addressed. The people of Gaza deserve stable, democratic and peaceful governance. A power vacuum in Gaza after the end of hostilities would further plunge the civilian population into misery. In this context I welcome President Abbas’ call for a national unity government and the holding of elections.
Thank you, Mr President.