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Thank you very much. Let me say how glad I am to welcome here today my good friend, Minister of Norway, Minister Brende. We always have good and regular occasions of exchanging on many different foreign affairs issues. And let me say, this is out of the formal context here, that really, in him and in Norway we always find a great partner on the many different challenges we are facing.
But today I am glad to host him here for the Ad-hoc Liaison Committee for Palestine, together with the Palestinian Finance Minister Bishara, the Israeli Ambassador Yaffa Ben Ari, and the other delegations for this meeting which is an important mechanism set up for donor coordination. I would like to use this opportunity again to thank Minister Brende, and all his team, in his capacity of the Chair of the AHLC for our excellent cooperation also in this file.
Since the last meeting we had in New York, at the margins of the UN General Assembly, unfortunately we have witnessed unacceptable episodes of violence and loss of human life, especially in and around Jerusalem and Hebron. The most recent one – a terrorist attack on a bus in Jerusalem - happened just yesterday. I would like here to express all my sympathy to all those who suffered from this violence.
This tells us that we need to urgently restore the perspectives for peace. A significant multilateral work led by the Quartet has been dedicated to resuming the peace process that would lead to a two-state solution. We believe there is space for mutually agreed transformative steps on the ground, as envisaged by the prior Israeli-Palestinian agreements and we believe it is in the interest of both parties to engage in this.
We need to meet Israeli and Palestinian security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, end of the occupation that began in 1967, and resolve all permanent status issues in order to end the conflict and all claims. Let me add here that the EU recognises Israel within its pre-1967 borders, whatever the government's claims on other areas, until a final settlement is concluded. And this is a common consolidated position of the European Union and its Member States.
The developments on the ground – including settlement expansion - fundamentally challenge the viability of a two-state solution and are also obstacles to the Palestinian economic development. This is a trend that needs to be reversed, and urgently.
The Ad-hoc Liaison Committee for Palestine plays a very important role here, as it contributes to the two-state solution by supporting institution building in preparation for Palestinian statehood. As both Israel and the Palestinian authority take part in the committee, it also fosters a triangular dialogue between the two parties and the donors, particularly on the need to facilitate the development of the Palestinian economy.
During the meeting, we will carefully look at the reports of the Office of the Quartet, UNESCO, the World Bank and the IMF with ideas on how to help the Palestinian authority address its fragile financial situation and strengthen its fiscal position.
The Palestinian authorities need build on the progress made in the past regarding institution and State-building. At the same time, the Palestinian parties need to restart the national reconciliation process. Some concrete measures could be taken relatively quickly to show willingness.
The situation on the ground in Gaza is particularly worrying both in economic, political and social terms. And let me stress here: the European Union has delivered on all its pledges made in the Cairo Conference and we expect all other donors to do the same. We welcome the measures taken by Israel to ease some restrictions on the Strip. But they are not enough; the closure should be fully lifted. It is fundamental to address at the same time Israel’s legitimate security concerns.
The European Union's objective remains to help both sides reaching a final status agreement on the basis of a two-state solution. The economic and institutional developments of Palestine, on the one hand, and a political perspective leading towards the two-state solution, on the other, are two sides of the same coin.
The European Union is ready to help by working closely with the two sides on the ground to improve the situation. We are also working with international partners and regional players. Today we will discuss important recommendations on how to improve the current situation, to remove some of the outstanding obstacles to the socio-economic development of the Palestinian territory, to build confidence between the parties and to support the development of sustainable institutions in preparation for Palestinian statehood.
So I am convinced that today's meeting will be a very productive and important one and once again I would like to thank the Minister for his tireless leadership in this file and for an excellent cooperation we have developed over this but also other files. Thank you.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I119868#