BRUSSELS —‘’I am cautiously optimistic,’’ Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said after chairing an extraordinary meeting in Brussels of the the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) in Brussels on Wednesday.
The AHLC was established in 1993 to coordinate development assistance for the Palestinian people. The 15 member body includes the members of the Quartet: the UN, the EU, Russia and the United States. Other members include Canada, Egypt, Japan, Jordan, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
It is one of the few high level forums in which Israeli and Palestinian officials meet. It often meets twice a year; the last such gathering was held in September in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Israel was represented at Wednesday’s meeting by Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and the Coordinator of Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai.
‘’All actors, all stakeholders were around the table,’’ stressed Soreide who chaired the meeting with EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini as host.
‘’It seems that like everyone had taken the opportunity to use this as a constructive meeting,’’ she added.
‘’I am saying that I am cautiously optimistic because we know that there is a lot of things that need to be done in order to push this process forward,’’ the Norwegian minister said.
‘’All stakeholders, all parties gave very good and very serious interventions. We have several important messages from today’s meeting : we have expressed our full support to the Palestinian Authority’s return to Gaza and also together with the PA meet the grave need for both basic infrastructures, improved livelihood…’’.
‘’We cannot achieve the state building until we have negotiations on the outstanding final status issues,’’ she said. ‘’We have voiced our support for initiatives to relaunch constructive negotiations on all the final status questions.’’ ‘’We have had both sides commit to peace. We urged both parties to demonstrate their courage but also to demonstrate their will.’’
Soreide said international donors have pledge willingness to continue their efforts to support the Palestinian people as increased financial support is urgently needed.’’
What we should focus on now is to do things that are conducive to the two-state solution and we have to work with what is possible,’’ the minister said, quoting what were the main messages. A new meeting of the ALHC is scheduled in March and September.
In the meantime, the European Union has decided to earmark 45 million euros (56 million $) in aid for the Palestinians.
Speaking to reporters alongside the Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the fund aimed to support the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem, as well as “the building of a democratic and accountable Palestinian state.”
Mogherini said the meeting was the first opportunity for relevant parties to sit together since the December announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“The basis and objective of our engagement is, and remains, the two-state solution with Jerusalem as the future capital of both states — the State of Israel and the State of Palestine,” Mogherini said.
“There is no alternative that would be both politically viable and sustainable and that would fulfill the legitimate aspirations of both parties, including the legitimate security concerns of Israel,” she added.
During the joint press conference, Mogherini also urged the U.S. to not go it alone in any effort to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians and warned that doing so would end in failure.
“Any framework for negotiations must be multilateral and must involve all players — all partners — that are essential to this process. A process without one or the other would simply not work, would simply not be realistic,” she said.
“Nothing without the United States, nothing with the United States alone,” Mogherini told the reporters.