Opening Statement by Norway Minister of Foreign Affairs Huitfeldt at Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) Meeting in Brussels (Non-UN Document)

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Colleagues and friends,

Welcome to this AHLC spring meeting in Brussels. Thank you High Representative Josep Borrell for hosting us.

A warm welcome to Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, Finance Minister Shukri Bishara and to Minister forRegional Cooperation Esawi Frej.

I would like to thank all the delegates for the productive consultations prior to this meeting. I thank the UN, the World Bank, and the Office of the Quartet for their invaluable reports. I welcome the report from the IMF, the first in several years.

I also thank Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands for their leadership in the working groups.

As we feared, the situation in the Holy Land was tense when Ramadan, Passover and Easter were celebrated at the same time.

But, as we hoped, thousands and thousands of people were still able to visit the holy places and worship according to their various religious traditions.

I would like to thank all those who helped to make the celebrations possible. I thank the leaders who expressed their respect for the historic status quo of the holy sites.

Friends,

The situation remains tense. We must address the underlying causes. We need a political horizon.

The aim of the AHLC is to help build the foundation for a Palestinian state and help realise the two-state solution.

Norway is committed to strengthening the work of the AHLC to achieve this aim.

We should be honest with ourselves: We still have a long way to go. And we always have to assess critically how the AHLC is able and activated to ensure the progress it was set up to achieve.

Palestinians need sustainable institutions that can provide good public services and welfare. They need a vibrant economy and a trusted government for the Palestinian people. Palestinians themselves are responsible for achieving this.

I commend the new and comprehensive Palestinian Reform Agenda that has been presented to us. I note that it gives priority and support to the fiscal reforms recommended by this group.

Certainly, significant achievements in building the state have already been made. Further action cannot wait until the occupation ends. The reforms need to be implemented. The priority must be to solve the economic and fiscal situation.

The Palestinians cannot do this alone.

I welcome the recent economic initiatives taken by the current Israeli government.

Of course, we understand that Israel is facing threats to its security and is on high alert. But unless more space is provided for Palestinian development, our state-building efforts will fail. The Palestinian economy cannot thrive unless the limitations set by the military occupation are lifted.

Donor contributions to the Palestinian budget are at an all-time low. The time donors balanced the budget is probably over.

In my view, Palestinian welfare should be the product of Palestinian labour and income.

But support for state-building must still be sustained.

Let me mention here: Norway will maintain its high levels of bilateral and multilateral support.

The parties must cooperate to build a better future for both peoples.

The current structures and mechanisms for such cooperation were established almost three decades ago. They must be reformed.

In Oslo last November, both the Israeli Government and the PA expressed a willingness to further develop their cooperation. Today, I am pleased to see that their work is intensified.

I am pleased that the electronic transfer of VAT is launched. Barriers to trade between Palestine and Jordan are being removed. There are new agreements that provide more water and more wastewater treatment. More goods go in to, and exports out of, Gaza. The number of Palestinians who work in Israel has been increased. The new platform for bank transfers of salaries to these workers is important.

While I am pleased about this progress, much more needs to be done. I am impatient for more tangible results.

Ahead of the next meeting in September, we should prepare a policy package of the meaningful steps that we commit to implement.

I call on the Palestinian leaders to maintain the policy of strict fiscal discipline. Again, the reforms must be implemented. Balancing the Palestinian budget is top priority. And, implementing the reforms may attract donor funds.

I also call for the unification of Palestine under a single, legitimate authority.

I call on Israel to remove more of the impediments imposed by the occupation. Palestinians need access to their land and resources, including in Area C. The expansion of settlements must be stopped. I welcome all the steps taken to alleviate the living conditions in Gaza and urge Israel to do more.

I call on both parties to speed up the reform of their economic relations. They must strengthen the transfer of authority in key sectors.

I ask the donors to continue their support for state-building. And for humanitarian assistance.

UNRWA needs help to resolve its critical budget shortfalls.

To conclude,

I am advocating for a political framework – and for being impatient.

We need a coherent policy package that charts the way beyond the current conflict management and toward the two-State solution to this conflict.


2022-05-11T14:27:21-04:00

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