Let me first of all add Norway’s voice to that of the Middle East Quartet, which last month again called on Israel and the Palestinians to act on their previous agreements and obligations in order to create conditions for the resumption of negotiations in the near term.
With the same sense of urgency, I call on the parties to fully engage in resumed negotiations to create a viable Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders.
There is broad and growing recognition that we are nearing a moment of truth. The prospective two-state solution can ill afford one more abortive process.
In view of Norway’s role as chair of the Ad-hoc Liaison Committee, the donor group supporting the Palestinian Authority, I must furthermore stress the importance of resumed negotiations to our ability to mobilise continued donor support for the Palestinian state-building project.
Without forward movement and the political endgame clearly in sight, donors will have a hard time justifying support beyond their Paris pledges of 2007, which are due to expire next year.
Norway chaired a meeting of the AHLC here in New York on 22 September this year. In spite of the international financial downturn, donors are honouring their pledges and support for PA is on par with expectations for the budget year 2009.
The World Bank also reported a 7 % growth in the Palestinian economy on the West Bank, due in part to Israel’s easing of restrictions, and in part to the PAs reform and security initiatives. If expanded and sustained, these developments will ease the humanitarian suffering and underpin peace efforts.
But let it be clear. The objective of the AHLC is to back up the quest for a two-state solution whereby the Israeli occupation is replaced by a free and sovereign Palestinian state, living side by side with Israel in peace and security. The willingness of the donors to maintain high levels of support is a strong message to the parties to engage in meaningful and dedicated negotiations to bring the peace process to its rightful conclusion.
The UN Fact-finding Commission on the Gaza Conflict raises allegations of the most serious nature. It alleges that both Israel and Palestinian groups may have been responsible for grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
We believe that the report should first be addressed by the UN Human Rights Council, as this Council initiated the fact-finding mission. The Human Rights Council is addressing the report this week. As a member of this Council, Norway will work toward achieving broad support for a balanced resolution ensuring appropriate follow-up of the report and its recommendations.
The parties to the conflict bear the most immediate responsibility to investigate and prosecute possible violations conducted by forces under their command. This is necessary, inter alia, to prevent impunity.
Norway is deeply concerned regarding issues of protection of vulnerable groups in armed conflict, both in the Middle East as well as throughout the world. The role of humanitarian agencies and workers are increasingly under threat. The full development of international humanitarian law is a significant legacy of the violent century we have put behind us. International humanitarian law needs to be protected, defended and expanded.