Since our last meeting, the developments in the Middle East give cause for deep concern. For the fourth time in the seven years since Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip, violence has flared up and inflicted an intolerable toll on civilians.
This violence, coming after the suspension of the US-led initiative to negotiate a final status agreement between Israel and the PLO, shows that the status quo is unsustainable. Reaching a final status agreement would have abrogated the Israeli occupation of Palestine, granted the Palestinian people a sovereign state, and opened for broad recognition of Israel as promised by the Arab Peace Initiative. An agreement would have laid the ground for nurturing peace. Instead, massive violence now incites unlimited hatred and causes devastating suffering for civilians.
Norway condemns the rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. Israel has the right to defend its citizens. Yet, Israel has an obligation to respect the requirements under humanitarian law, as have all the combatant Palestinian groups. Being the stronger part and operating in very densely populated areas strengthen Israel`s responsibility. We take note of the acceptance by Israel of the initiative for ceasefire suggested by Egypt a week ago.
Norway condemns the loss of more than six hundred civilian lives, among them many women and children. This unacceptable level of suffering of civilians is out of proportions. Civilian casualties, including the killing of four children on the beach in Gaza and the military operation in Shuja`iyya, should be swiftly and thoroughly investigated.
The ongoing military confrontation is a threat to international peace and stability. Despite recent press statements, the Security Council could take more decisive action and ensure respect for international humanitarian law.
Norway has repeatedly called for an immediate and unconditional cessation of the hostilities and for a long-term and durable ceasefire. Bloodshed and suffering must end. That goal, however, requires also addressing the complex underlying causes of the conflict.
First, Norway calls for concerted international action by all friends of Israel and Palestine in support of the Egyptian initiative and leadership to broker an unconditional and immediate cessation of hostilities between the two sides.
Second, Norway calls for addressing the appalling humanitarian situation in Gaza. Recalling the UN Security Council Resolution 1860 and the understanding of the truce that ended the 2012 confrontations, the challenges are clear. There is an urgent need for humanitarian and medical assistance, and for reconstruction of private homes and civil infrastructure. There is a need to bring the security arrangements in Gaza in line with the rest of Palestine.
The people in Gaza cannot continue to live under blockade and in poverty and misery. It is a shame that the majority of the workforce is without work and remains dependent on assistance by the international community. Border crossings must be reopened, and access and movement for people and goods be facilitated. Key to achieving this, is in the short term to reunite Palestine under one integrated and reformed authority headed by president Abbas - as the Palestinian factions have agreed to do.
As the Chair of the Donor Group, the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (the AHLC), and in partnership with the EU Presidency, Norway will take an initiative to call for an international donors conference for Palestine in Oslo as soon as a ceasefire is announced. The conference will address the immediate challenges, including for securing continued social services in a transitional period, and call for pledges of international assistance.
In the margins of the UN General Assembly, Norway will chair an ordinary meeting of the AHLC hosted by the UN Secretary General to coordinate external assistance for building the Palestinian institutions and sustainable economic growth, including addressing the particular challenges facing the Palestinian Authority in the short- and medium term.
Third, Norway calls on the Security Council to request that the parties return to a political process and solve the outstanding issues of their conflict peacefully, in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions, previous commitments and agreements between the Parties.
Without hope for the future, freedom to live dignified lives, and respect for rights and international norms, there will be no lasting calm for either of the civilian populations. Without lasting calm, mutual respect, and broad recognition of the two peoples and their rights, there will not be security and peace.
We should not forget the other crises in the region.
The situation in Syria remains extremely serious, despite the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2165 last week. Norway remains firm in her condemnation of the blatant disregard for civilian suffering, human rights and international humanitarian law demonstrated by the Syrian government forces as well as other parties to the tragic civil war. The atrocities committed by the ISIL and its seizure of control of considerable territories in northeastern Syria and northwestern and central parts of Iraq threatens not only Iraq and Syria, but the whole region.
These developments have tremendous ramifications for the neighbors, the region, and, potentially, for global security. Radical jihadism is gaining a foothold. Violence and terror cause humanitarian disasters of an unprecedented combined magnitude. Millions of people rely on external food aid for their survival. Massive displacements of people seeking refuge and security outside their normal place of living, are flooding the neighboring countries.
The global resources and capacity for humanitarian responses are under severe strain. Norway calls on the member states of the Security Council to redouble their efforts to address the root causes of these developments, and to agree on concerted action to restore stability and calm.