Rutte receives Palestinian delegation

Today Prime Minister Mark Rutte received Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah for a working lunch at his official residence, the Catshuis. A Palestinian delegation led by President Abbas is visiting the Netherlands from 28 to 30 October 2015. The reason for the visit is the second Cooperation Forum between the Palestinian Authority and the Netherlands.

After his meeting with President Abbas and Prime Minister Hamdallah, Mr Rutte made the following statement:

‘Today we are welcoming a large Palestinian delegation, led by President Abbas and Prime Minister Hamdallah, to the second Dutch-Palestinian Cooperation Forum. Since the first forum in 2013, the Netherlands has become one of the main European export markets for Palestinian products.

‘Prime Minister Hamdallah and I will shortly open the second forum, where Dutch and Palestinian business leaders and representatives of academic and government institutions will discuss how to further expand our ties.

‘During the first forum in 2013 everyone had a sense of hope because of the new impetus given to the peace process. But hope has now given way to concern, mainly due to the recent escalation in violence in and around Jerusalem, on the West Bank and in Israel. We regret the victims among Palestinian and Israeli civilians. The Netherlands condemns violence against innocent civilians.

‘It’s absolutely vital for both sides to take steps to de-escalate the situation and break the spiral of violence, for example by publicly calling on people to refrain from violence. And to respond to demonstrations and attacks within the limits of the law. So I welcome the agreements made between the Palestinians, Israel and Jordan, with US mediation, aimed at de-escalation and maintaining the status quo at the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif. President Abbas has assured me that security cooperation will continue. De-escalation will create a favourable climate for fresh talks on a lasting solution. A political horizon is essential in this regard.

‘The Netherlands is committed to a two-state solution, based on the 1967 borders, in which a sovereign Palestinian state exists side by side with Israel in peace and security. We have always spoken out against the further expansion of settlements. The settlements are illegal and present a major obstacle to the resumption of negotiations and a two-state solution.

‘The Netherlands firmly supports the EU’s efforts to give fresh momentum to the peace process and is providing concrete assistance to improve the situation on the ground.

‘We will continue playing a constructive role, thanks to our ties with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, for example in forums like today’s.

‘The situation is difficult, not least for businesses wanting to trade with the Palestinian Territories. But it’s important to keep investing in development and mutual ties, precisely to promote peace and security.’