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Egypt, Norway to co-host Gaza conference

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“Keeping a population trapped and starved provides no security for Gaza’s neighbours”, says Norwegian foreign minister

The people of Gaza are suffering and need immediate help from the international community, Norway’s foreign minister Børge Brende said in a statement Monday.

Brende’s statement came upon the announcement that Norway and Egypt intend to co-host a conference for the reconstruction of Gaza.

The conference, for which no date has been set, will take place in Cairo and aims to provide assistance for Palestine but will primarily be focused on reconstruction efforts in Gaza. The densely populated area suffered extensive damage during the latest militarised phase in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has given support to the conference, for which invitations will be extended “once an agreement on a sustainable ceasefire has been reached as a result of the ongoing talks”, read the joint Egyptian-Norwegian statement.

Abbas will be the recipient of the aid, said Brende, pointing out: “It is his unity government of technocrats who should be responsible for the reconstruction.”

He stressed that an obstacle to a two-state solution will be removed “when Palestine is reunited under one government, led by President Abbas”.

Brende said the “damage is large and greater than after the war of 2008-2009. This is the third time donors must contribute to reconstruction of Gaza”. He added that the Strip “cannot be rebuilt as it was. The international community cannot be expected to participate in yet another reconstruction”.

The Norwegian minister, who visited Tel Aviv and Ramallah in July, stressed the importance of civilians both inside and outside of Gaza.

He said: “Keeping a population trapped and starved provides no security for Gaza’s neighbours”.

Israel has implemented an air, land and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip since 2007, with Egypt controlling the southern Rafah border crossing.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported on Saturday that at least 218,367 people have been internally displaced in Gaza and have sought shelter in 87 UN schools. It estimated that “8,832 housing units have been totally destroyed, requiring reconstruction, and 7,960 have been severely damaged and are uninhabitable until major repairs can take place”.

UNOCHA also highlighted the threat from “explosive remnants of war” that are scattered around civilian areas increasing the danger for displaced persons returning to their home. It also pointed out the need for “urgent repairs” to electrical, water, and waste water infrastructure.

Egypt has hosted Palestinian and Israeli delegations in Cairo for indirect talks to reach an agreement for a lasting ceasefire agreement, which were expected to continue on Monday. On Sunday the delegations from both sides returned from consultations in Tel Aviv, Gaza, Doha and Ramallah to continue the talks with just over 24 hours left before the expiry of a five day ceasefire agreement.

The Palestinian Embassy in Cairo reported Sunday that the Israeli delegation is expected to hand over its response to the “Egyptian document” on Monday. The cross-faction Palestinian delegation met on Sunday evening to “develop the Palestinian negotiating position in light of the Israeli responses”.

Abbas is also expected to travel to Cairo for an official visit on Friday and to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Saturday, according to Palestinian Ambassador to Egypt Jamal Shobaki.

 

About the author

Joel Gulhane

News Reporter

Joel Gulhane is a journalist with an interest in Egyptian and regional politics. Follow him on Twitter @jgulhane


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