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SC: The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question

Last updated: 1/21/2014 // This statement was held by Ambassador Mr. Geir O. Pedersen in the Security Council on January 20th.

Mr President,

I would like to commend Jordan on its competent chairmanship of the Security Council this month and to express Norway’s great appreciation of Jordan’s constructive role in the Middle East and its generosity in hosting more than half a million Syrian refugees, at great cost to itself.

We are approaching important milestones in relation to two major conflicts in the Middle East. Now is the time to push for real diplomatic progress.

We are meeting two days ahead of the Geneva II conference, a conference which is long overdue. There can be no military solution to the conflict in Syria. Pouring more weapons into this conflict will only prolong the human suffering. For this reason Norway welcomes the Secretary-General’s convening of the Geneva II Conference and we look forward to attending. We also reiterate the Secretary- General’s call to the Syrian parties to ensure the full and effective participation of women. The logic of peace must replace the logic of war. We urge both sides of the conflict to accept the invitation to the negotiating table, and to embark on the challenging process of reaching agreement on an inclusive, Syrian-led transition and solution to this conflict. Going to the negotiating table is the first step. Remaining at the table is even more important.

It is vital that the conference yields concrete results. Violence must end. Ceasefires must be declared. Immediate, full and unimpeded humanitarian access must be ensured, and humanitarian principles respected. Syrian women and civil society actors must be actively involved in the negotiations. This will increase the legitimacy of the process. The international community must come together in demanding an end to the conflict, as it did on the issue of the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.

In our view, taking steps of this kind could facilitate an agreement on a transitional governing body, as outlined in the Geneva Communiqué from June 2012.

The humanitarian challenge is still enormous and it will remain with us for years. The pledging conference in Kuwait on 15 January mobilised USD 2.4 billion in pledges towards meeting the target of USD 6.5 billion. This is encouraging, but not enough. We need to do even more. Assistance to Syria’s neighbouring countries must be stepped up. Norway pledged USD 65 million in humanitarian assistance and USD 10 million for assisting Syria’s neighbouring countries at Kuwait II.   

The destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons is well under way under the supervision of the OPCW and the UN. Norway is proud to be a part of this joint effort to eliminate these deadly weapons. We urge all parties involved to fulfil their international commitments to ensure that the chemical weapons are removed from Syria and destroyed within the agreed time frames. 

President,

The Middle East Peace Process is at a decisive phase.

Norway is encouraged by the serious and intensive diplomatic efforts by the US to assist Israel and the Palestinians in negotiating a historic peace agreement. We commend President Obama and Secretary Kerry's leadership and dedication.

Norway believes that given the broader situation in the region, this is the time for Palestinians and Israelis to agree on ending the conflict.

A two-state solution, whereby Israel and Palestine can live side by side in peace and security, is within reach. The process shows how difficult the outstanding questions are – security, borders, the status of Jerusalem, refugees. Reaching agreement involves painful concessions and tough decisions, for both sides.

Therefore, we urge the leaders on both sides to show courage and determination at this critical moment. Norway remains fully committed to the peace process and will provide all possible help and assistance.

This historic opportunity must not be squandered.

Norway believes that the historic compromise is only possible if the core needs of both parties are duly addressed, and met, in a fair and balanced way.

Norway aligns itself with the position of the EU, as set out in the December 2009 Council Conclusions, regarding the parameters for a solution to the outstanding questions. The solution must be in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions, the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements.

We cannot allow the negotiations to be derailed. Norway condemns all use of violence. Norway calls for the parties to refrain from unilateral acts that could undermine the talks, change the situation on the ground, or prejudge the outcome of the final status negotiations. Settlement activities must stop.

While we focus on the peace process, we must not forget the people of Gaza. Norway is deeply concerned about the deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza. We call for the lifting of the restrictions in compliance with Security Council resolution 1860 in all its elements, including the need for security for all the civilian populations.

President,

The institutional basis for an independent Palestine is already in place. However, the Palestinian Authority will continue to need generous financial support from donors in 2014 to support the efforts to achieve peace.

Assistance to the Palestinian Authority amounted to USD 1.25 billion last year, a big improvement on the year before. This still leaves a budget deficit, which will add to Palestine’s public debt. Norway urges donors to remain generous in their contributions to the PA while the Palestinians strive to reach a negotiated settlement with Israel. We plan to hold a new meeting of the donors group, the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee, in late spring this year, in Brussels. There, we will review assistance for 2014.

Thank you for your attention.


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