I am pleased to convey greetings to Finance Minister Qasis, Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon, High Representative Ashton, Quartet Representative Blair, and the other participants in this meeting. I thank Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre for the key role that Norway continues to play in convening and chairing this important forum.
Today’s meeting comes at a critical time of rapid change and immense challenges in the Middle East and beyond. Recent weeks have underscored the fragility of the current situation. In this context, the vision of a two-State solution and the achievements of the Palestinian Authority are key elements of stability and progress. They must be maintained and realized in full without further delay.
Since April 2011, when the UN report to the AHLC concluded that Palestinian Authority institutions were sufficient for a functioning government of a state, further achievements have been registered. We commend the achievements of the entire Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Prime Minister Fayyad.
However, the lack of progress on the political track, the ongoing conflict and occupation, the expansion of settlements, and the continued Palestinian divide mean that the very viability of the two-state solution is now in peril. The dire financial situation of the Palestinian Authority presents a serious additional risk, as the protests in the West Bank serve to alert us. The international community must strengthen its support to the Palestinian Authority. Failure to do so at this critical juncture could have consequences that may prove widely destabilizing.
I urge donors to meet the immediate shortfall of $400 million. But we must also break the annual cycle of fiscal crises that hamper the Palestinian Authority’s ability to sustain its state-building achievements. Sustainable economic growth that benefits Palestinians while increasing the Palestinian Authority’s revenue through taxation is essential now more than ever.
I welcome the recent exchange of letters between the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel dealing with revenue capture, and I hope to see the quick finalization and implementation of the associated technical agreements. I also hope to see further progress in easing movement and access restrictions to allow the Palestinian private sector to generate economic growth.
UN agencies, funds and programmes are working side by side with the Palestinian Authority to implement its ambitious institution-building plan. We will continue to do so. But Israel also has a special responsibility.
Area C, which represents 60 per cent of the West Bank, is fundamental to the contiguity of the West Bank and to the viability of a future Palestinian state. Palestinian access to land in Area C is essential to accommodate the Palestinian population and to enable the development of a dynamic Palestinian private sector. In East Jerusalem, there is a need to revitalize the economy while strengthening the delivery of services, including in the health sector.
In Gaza, the UN has played a leading role in reconstruction efforts. We must accelerate our progress across a range of sectors – including education, health, and the provision of water and electricity – if Gaza is to meet the demands of a population projected to grow from 1.5 million to 2.1 million people by 2020. Allowing exports to Israel and transfers to the West Bank will be an essential next step in revitalizing Gaza’s economy. Our goal must remain the full implementation of Security Council Resolution 1860, including the lifting of the closure.
However, improvements on the ground will complement but not replace much needed progress towards a final status agreement. The current situation is not sustainable. By the end of this year, yet another timeline for reaching a negotiated solution will have lapsed. The establishment of a viable, democratic and sovereign State of Palestine living side by side with Israel is long overdue. It is time for the international community to work seriously with the parties in the coming months to chart a new, credible political path towards achieving that vision.
Foreign Minister Støre, I welcome your continued effort to promote trilateral dialogue. I hope the Committee’s discussions today will help ensure continued support for the Palestinian Authority while strengthening the necessary cooperation with Israel.
Thank you again for your support, and I wish you well in your deliberations.