Statement by Ambassador Gunnar Pálsson Permanent Representative of Iceland

The situation in the Middle East remains of grave concern and continues to threaten stability far beyond the region.

My Government attaches great value to the proximity talks between Israelis and Palestinians and trusts that they will pave the way for the resumption of bilateral negotiations leading to the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State. We also welcome the steps that are being taken in the review of Israels´s policy on Gaza and look forward to the full implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) leading to the unconditional opening of Gaza crossings for humanitarian aid, commerce and people.

At the same time, Iceland remains deeply concerned at the continued house demolitions, evictions, settlement activities and the building of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) and fears this may lead to the erosion of the two state solution.

Only last week, the Jerusalem municipality approved the construction of 32 new Israeli homes in a settlement in East Jerusalem. This policy of continued settlement activity is obviously not going to increase confidence in the peace process and must be put to an end.

Also, the policy of house demolitions should be ceased immediately. Last week, again, Jerusalem municipality demolished a number of Palestinian structures throughout East Jerusalem, forcibly displacing at least 25 people, including 12 children. These and additional demolitions in the Jordan Valley this week, bring recorded demolitions in the oPt this year to a total of 198 structures, resulting in the forced displacement of almost 300 Palestinians, half of them children, while 600 others have been otherwise affected.

While recognizing Israel´s legitimate security concerns, Iceland strongly believes the blockade of Gaza to be in violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law. The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains deplorable as a result of the blockade. We align ourselves with those who call upon the Government of Israel to immediately and fully lift the blockade so that the people in Gaza can regain their dignity and revive their economy.

Iceland, following a discussion in the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament, strongly condemned action leading to the loss of lives on 31 May during the Israeli raid on a flotilla sailing to Gaza and supports calls for an immediate, full and impartial inquiry into the incident with international participation.

In conclusion, Iceland remains a firm supporter of a peaceful resolution of the conflict and the two state solution. This requires genuine political willingness by both parties to reach an agreement on all the final status issues including borders, refugees and Jerusalem.  It has been said by some supporters of the two state solution that we are currently at one minute to midnight.  The urgency is clear but what remains unclear is whether the parties, in conjunction with the international community, are ready to take the measures necessary. Let us hope that we can join forces and overcome the remaining hurdles before the fateful hour strikes.    


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