Today, the absence of resumed peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is unsustainable. Both parties have responsibilities to achieve a comprehensive, just and durable peace in the Middle East. Hostilities directed against civilians in southern Israel continue from the Gaza strip and Sinai. This is totally unacceptable. Nevertheless, the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank persists and this is presently the most severe impediment to peace.
Israel has to respond to the international community’s continuous call for compliance with international law and to abide with its international obligations. We cannot accept the encirclement of East Jerusalem by settlements which is cutting off any future capital of a Palestinian state and which is fragmenting the Palestinian territory. Israeli settlements are illegal under international and Israeli law and should be demolished as ruled by the Israeli High Court.
Current actions on the ground are not compatible with the peace negotiations for the establishment of a two-state solution to the conflict. These unlawful and unilateral acts aiming at changing the situation on the ground and preempting the outcome of negotiations simply must stop. Both the territory and borders are to be decided through the negotiations, as with other final status issues.
The settlement expansion is currently inciting the Palestinian side to respond by internationalizing the conflict. It is also increasingly provoking the public opinion and contributes to isolating Israel within the region and beyond. European leaders are constantly being asked why nothing is being done to hold Israel accountable. This threatens the stability of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian state building efforts. It may trigger waves of uncontrolled unrest in the area and lead to a breakdown of the current security mechanisms.
The donor support group for the Palestinian Territory (AHLC) met on 21 March in Brussels to address the challenges in the Palestinian economy. It called for increased budget support by donors to meet the anticipated deficit in the recurrent budget. It also called on both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to implement improvements in the tax collection and transfer mechanism. The donor group also called for increased economic access for Palestinian authorities and investors in the area that is still under Israeli administration which constitutes around 43% of the West Bank.
Important progress has been made to facilitate the import of goods to Gaza and thereby improving living conditions. However, more needs to be done for Gaza to realize its full economic and social potential. Within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 1860 further steps should be taken to lift the closure while taking security challenges into account.
Finally – a few words on Syria. The cessation of violence remains incomplete. Syrian authorities must immediately withdraw their security forces and heavy weapons back from populated areas to the barracks. Norway fully supports Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s efforts to stop the bloodshed in Syria and to facilitate a political transition towards democracy. We welcome the adoption of the UNSCR 2043 and the deployment of up to 300 military observers and civilian experts to monitor the full implementation of Annan’s six-point proposal. We hope that these efforts will contribute positively and create conditions for a meaningful political transition towards democracy.