Nordic countries concerned about measures against Palestinians
The five Nordic foreign ministers discussed the situation in the Middle East today, focusing particularly on relations between Israel and the Palestinians in the wake of this week’s vote in UNESCO. Although the Nordic countries’ positions differed as regards the timing of Palestinian membership of UNESCO, they agree that the way forward must be based on a resumption of negotiations and the vision of a two-state solution.
The five Nordic foreign ministers agree on the following:
We are opposed to the punitive measures Israel is currently discussing. Israel’s settlement policy and the expansion of its settlements are illegal under international law. It is completely unacceptable for Israel to withhold tax revenues it has collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. This would weaken the Palestinian institutions that the international community has helped to build up over a number of years. These punitive measures would undermine the basis for negotiations.
The fact that the Israeli Government is considering withholding Palestinian VAT and customs duties, which are administered by Israel according to an agreement with the Palestinians, is particularly unfortunate. This money is equivalent to around two-thirds of the payroll expenses for public employees in the Palestinian Authority and the loss of this revenue would have serious consequences.
Robust Palestinian institutions are necessary for negotiations. Both parties have an interest in and a responsibility for safeguarding these institutions. These punitive measures will not improve Israel’s security, and we urge the parties to refrain from any unilateral action that could put Palestinian institutions at risk.
The conflict can only be resolved through the establishment of a Palestinian state within the territory occupied by Israel in 1967, with mutually agreed adjustments. There is an urgent need to restart negotiations on the outstanding issues. We call on both parties to demonstrate the political courage and will to heed the Quartet’s call for negotiations on borders and security.
Copenhagen, 2 November 2011