Speaking on his visit to the Middle East, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store has voiced his country’s concerns over the situation in East Jerusalem, claiming that increasing pressure is being placed on the region’s Palestinian population.
“The status of Jerusalem must be resolved to ensure lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and this can only be achieved through negotiations,” Store stated after holding talks with Lutheran Bishop Monib Younan and various Palestinian leaders about the fate of their people in the holy city.
“Evictions, demolitions, the separation barrier and the ongoing establishment of new settlements are changing the demographics and geography of East Jerusalem, and thus also the basis for a negotiated solution,” said Store, adding that he was “concerned that these changes, which have accelerated in recent months, will make it more difficult to get new, genuine negotiations off the ground”.
Store has repeatedly expressed Norway’s stance on the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem which echoes that of the international community. “We do not recognise Israel’s annexation of Palestinian East Jerusalem,” Store said, claiming that the Israeli presence is a clear violation of international law.
Store’s visit also included a tour of the Norwegian funded Augusta Victoria Hospital where Palestinians are provided with specialist medical services. Israeli security enforcement has meant that Gaza and West Bank Palestinians are no longer able to freely access the facility.
“Jerusalem is a holy city for billions of people who adhere to the three monotheistic world religions. Respect for each other’s faith and holy sites is a prerequisite for peaceful co-existence. Jews, Muslims and others must all have the right to live here,” said Store.