London AHLC meeting – Opening address by Norwegian Foreign Minister (Chair)/Non-UN document

Opening Address at the AHLC Meeting in London

London, 2 May 2008

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

As Chair of the AHLC – let me too welcome you to London. And let me thank Foreign Secretary Miliband for kindly hosting this event.

I extend a special welcome to Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad and Israeli Foreign Minister Livni, as well as to the permanent members of the AHLC. I also welcome the bilateral invitees, who have been invited specially to this meeting. They are here because they are major financial contributors to the Palestinians, as they all fulfil the criterion of contributing more than USD 100 million. Their presence highlights the commitment made by donors in Paris in December.

The AHLC meeting in New York, the Annapolis Conference, the Donor Conference in Paris and this AHLC meeting are all part of a collective effort to accelerate progress towards a viable two-state solution.

Now, as we gather in the AHLC context, it is again necessary to take stock and determine the way ahead for the critical process of Palestinian state-building. This is the purpose and task of the AHLC. We intend to convene our next follow-up in the autumn – in connection with the UN General Assembly in New York.

At our meeting in New York in September, we defined three conditions for economic recovery and development in the Palestinian Territory: first, increased donor support, second, increased momentum in the reform of the Palestinian Authority administration, and third, the easing of restrictions on economic activities.

On the first of these conditions we are doing well. The Paris Donor Conference in December pledged USD 7.7 billion over the next three years based on the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan.

Now we need to see those pledges turned into real assistance. I urge all donors to channel as much as possible of their contributions directly through the PA, as direct support to the state-building process. 

On the second dimension – on the reform of the PA – there is also progress. We welcome the efforts by Prime Minister Fayyad to reform the PA under very demanding circumstances.   

The main challenge concerns the third dimension – the easing of restrictions on economic activities. Access and movement must be improved for donor assistance to be effective and the private sector to recover.

The World Bank and the UN have stated this very clearly: there has been little or no progress with regard to easing Israeli restrictions on daily life in the Palestinian Territory. Not least in connection with Israeli settlement activities. There must be visible improvement in order to provide hope for the Palestinian population and bolster the PA as a partner for peace. Let’s not forget that in 1999, the PA ran a surplus. It can do so again.

At the same time we acknowledge Israel’s security concerns.

I welcome the recent announcement by Israel to remove a number of obstacles in the West Bank. It is of fundamental importance that Israel continues to facilitate progress on the ground in terms of access and movement.  

The removal of key restrictions will result in growth and the realisation of important projects as envisaged by Quartet Representative Blair.

Then there is Gaza. Gaza is an integral part of the Palestinian Territory. I support the different political initiatives to normalise the situation in Gaza and the ongoing political efforts to find a sustainable solution to the current impasse.

Palestinian groups must stop firing rockets into Israel and attacking crossings into Gaza. At the same time Israel must curb its military operations in the Palestinian Territory.

Finally, this forum – the AHLC – was established almost fifteen years ago to underpin progress towards a Palestinian state.

Last autumn, together with the parties, we established a parallelism between the financial and development agenda of the AHLC on the one hand – and political progress around the negotiating table on the other.  

We have delivered on financial support so far. It is now up to the negotiating parties to ensure political progress which is felt and understood by people on the ground.

The danger of status quo persisting is real, as it is undermining our common vision of a two-state solution. Change and progress are needed. This must be our goal. 

Document Type: Address
Document Sources: European Commission, Quartet
Country: Norway, United Kingdom
Subject: Assistance, Economic issues, Peace process
Publication Date: 02/05/2008

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