Statement by Ambassador Gunnar Pálsson Permanent Representative

The resumption of direct peace negotiations between Israel and Palestinian authorities earlier this autumn was a long-awaited event, raising hopes around the world that the parties might finally make progress on the final status issues.

Now, after a very short interval, there is a serious risk that the peace process might stall once again. For this Israel must assume the greatest part of the responsibility, having refused to renew its moratorium on settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in East Jerusalem.

It is important to recall that the settlements are not simply a distraction or an obstacle to peace. They are illegal under international law; a product of the occupation and designed to further entrench the occupation. To call on Israel to immediately cease all settlement activity is therefore a legitimate request and, indeed, an obligation of the international community.

The Icelandic nation remains deeply sympathetic towards the plight of the Palestinians, now in focus due to the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and the raid on the flotilla in international waters earlier this year. The raid was condemned by my Government and drew strong public reaction. Experts, mandated by the Human Rights Council, have now concluded that Israel broke international law by attacking the flotilla. We urge the Israeli authorities to work with the UN on the follow up to the report.

Israel and the Palestinian side should also conduct independent and credible investigations, meeting international standards, into the serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law reported by the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.

The Government of Iceland strongly believes that the blockade of Gaza is contrary to international human rights and humanitarian law, inflicting collective punishment on the Gaza population. Accordingly, the Government of Iceland calls upon the Government of Israel to bring the blockade to an end and ensure that the overall needs of the population can be met.

Iceland firmly supports a peaceful resolution of the conflict and the two state solution. A sustainable and just peace will not be achieved in the Middle East without the realisation of the two states solution, with Israel and Palestine living in security side by side.

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