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17 December 2007
Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre
International Donors’ Conference for the Palestinian State, Paris
The Paris Conference
Paris, 17 December 2007
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Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
As chair of the AHLC, I would like to thank President Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Kouchner, for hosting the conference on behalf of France, and I would like to thank our co-chairs, Quartet Representative Tony Blair and the European Commission in the person of Commissioner Ferrero Waldner, for excellent cooperation over the last few months.
I would also express my appreciation for the surge of support signified by the broad range of delegations present here today. In particular, I welcome the strong presence from governments of the region.
I would also like to thank the Palestinian Authority [PA] for presenting a well-prepared Reform and Development Plan, which is the basis for today’s pledges. It is an unprecedented plan, as President Sarkozy said. Prime Minister Fayyad, you signal here a strong conviction that the PA is ready to take charge of the complex challenges of building a state that will eventually be part of a two-state solution.
We signal by our presence and our pledges that we believe in your cause, in your resolve and in an outcome that will be a foundation for peace. With your document, we now have the right basis for cooperation between the PA and donors.
This pledging conference is taking place against the backdrop of the first direct final status talks between Palestinians and Israelis in seven years. It is our task to strengthen the important new momentum we now see. More than before, the process of peace and the process of economic reconstruction are truly interconnected. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity.
In addition to mobilising political will and courage, there are two key factors that must be in place in order to move forward after Annapolis: the Palestinians must be able to see signs of social and economic development in both the West Bank and Gaza; and both the Palestinians and the Israelis must feel an enhanced sense of security. Our task here in Paris is to help build the capacity to deliver on both of these key factors.
One critical condition for succeeding will be to help mobilise budget support to the Palestinian Authority. I fear that without direct budget support, the Palestinian Authority will collapse. We cannot allow that to happen.
Let me also underline that it is critical that the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan include both Gaza and the West Bank. We need to send the message that Gaza and its population of 1.5 million people – so desperately in need of employment opportunities, social services and medical support – are not forgotten by the international community. Budgetary support for the salaries of public servants – including in Gaza – should therefore be provided.
I would also urge donors to use the Single Treasury Account to channel their assistance. It is effective, the results are immediate and it reduces transaction costs. The whole mechanism will be served and guided by the proposed World Bank Trust Fund. I would like to thank the World Bank for proposing this fund, and I would encourage delegations to channel part of their support through this mechanism. It is, I believe, the best guarantee we have to secure the proper and transparent administration of budget support funds.
Let me now turn to our Israeli colleagues and friends. It is hard to see how the Palestinians can make any reasonable progress without improved access to and within the territory. Without such access, there will be no economic growth. At the same time, I acknowledge Israel’s right to address legitimate security concerns, such as the totally unacceptable launch of rockets from Gaza. It is, however, critical that Israel does its utmost to facilitate trade and daily life for the Palestinians by implementing step-by-step the Agreement on Access and Movement.
Let me also underline that both parties bear a heavy responsibility for bringing the Annapolis process forward. Negotiations have just started. The process is fragile. The construction of new settlements in the occupied territory runs counter to Israel’s obligations and commitment. It has to stop – it has to be reversed.
Norway is committed to continuing to support the Palestinian state building efforts. In 2008, Norway will contribute a total of NOK 760 million – equivalent to about USD 140 million. We want to maintain this level for the whole period 2008-2010. We intend to make sure that approximately 50% of our assistance in this period goes directly to the Palestinian Authority. This year we have provided USD 41 million in budget support, and we will maintain this high level in 2008.
If we can get a World Bank Trust Fund up and running early next year, our preference would be to make use of such a mechanism. Such a fund would be an important instrument for improving burden sharing and increasing sorely needed fiscal predictability and sustainability.
After Paris, the momentum must be maintained and developments must be monitored. Disbursement and budget support will be key.
The high-level AHLC meeting in New York in September paved the way for renewed efforts by the donor community. The Paris conference is an important milestone. We now need to keep the pace on a constructive track parallel with the political negotiations after Annapolis. For this purpose, Norway will call for an AHLC meeting in the spring in order to assess further needs and assist in speeding up disbursements and monitoring progress.