HE Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs at Munich Security Conference 2024 “Stability and Peace in the Middle East-De-escalation Challenge"

Moderator (Yalda Hakim): …Qatar really has been at the center of the crisis in Gaza, you’ve been at the center of negotiations. Can you begin by telling us how close we are to a deal and what are the prospects?


His Excellency: First of all Yalda, thank you for having me today in the panel and I would like also to thank everyone here. Actually I think we are, you know the time is not in our favor. We made some good progress in the last few weeks in the negotiations and we’ve been trying to reach an agreement between the two parties, yet the last few days has not been progressing as expected and I believe there are still differences in place. If we look at basically the agreements that we had earlier in November when we managed to get 109 hostages out and we had this pause, this humanitarian pause for a week, it always has two elements in any agreement, one is addressing the humanitarian condition in Gaza and the other one which really reflect the numbers of the people who will be released in exchange of the hostages. I believe in this agreement we are talking at a bigger scale and we still see some difficulties on the humanitarian part of these negotiations that we see it really going to enable us and to help us in making sure that we are putting enough pressure to reduce and to get the numbers down.


Now if we are able to reach in the next few days some good conditions on that side, I believe that we can see a deal happening very soon. Yet the pattern in the last few days are not really very promising but as I always repeat, you know we will always remain optimistic, we will always remain pushing, we will try our best to put a closure to this. We believe that the humanitarian suffering in both sides is not something easy to be handled. The humanitarian situation in Gaza and specially when it comes to Rafah and now we see the population over there it is a dire situation and you know we are seeing a very threatening moments if plans in Gaza will happen.


Moderator (Yalda Hakim): You say the last few days haven’t been going well, what are the obstacles?


His Excellency: Well I cannot disclose much on the details of the negotiations but as I mentioned we believe that if we are able to reach an agreement on the humanitarian side of the agreement, I don’t think the numbers…they will remain an obstacle but yet it won’t be the biggest obstacle. I think the time is not in our favor. As I mentioned Ramadan is also ahead of us now, and also as the situation in Rafah evolving, that will be very dangerous for the entire region.


Moderator (Yalda Hakim): But when you say that it’s the humanitarian situation that you’re not satisfied with, what is the actual issue?


His Excellency: Well I am trying to avoid getting into details of the negotiations and respecting the parties of the negotiations but yet I think that if we can address and signify the humanitarian package within the agreement, we will be able to get through the obstacle of the numbers, that’s basically our focus these days.


Moderator (Yalda Hakim): Sheikh Mohammed, Israel has made it very clear right from the outset that any further negotiations, whatever it may be, when it comes to the Palestinian cause and situation, will not include or involve Hamas. Do you think that’s realistic?


His Excellency: Well I think that to be realistic when we are going to start a negotiation about the Palestinian state or the Palestinian’s future, if we look back in the last three decades now, we’ve seen that we are just going into a cycle which never resulted anything or any progress, it was the contrary. We have seen an increase in the number of settlements, we have seen continuous violations on the holy sites, we have seen provocations happening from time to time, settler violence, we have seen that how many wars that we’ve been through in the last 30 years and yet we always see that talking about the two-state solution is not anymore something happening. We hope that this and now what happened after October 7th and the war on Gaza will represent a wake-up call that the situation is not sustainable and we need to step up and to look at a better future for the people in the region, whether it’s the Palestinians, the Arabs, the Israelis, everyone. What we want, we want to see a better future for everyone.


Now on the issue of Hamas being part of the problem or being part of the solution, what we are talking about, we are talking about the Palestinian representatives. That's basically the PLO, the one who is representing the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in everywhere around the world. They are the organization that's mandated for the negotiations and I believe that whoever the Palestinians are agreed on should be included in that and it's the Palestinian decision to decide who's being part of them or not and I think that the Palestinians, they have the same right as any other people or any other country to choose whoever is participating with them, or not.


Now I just wanted to come back to a point where my colleague, Prime Minister of Norway has highlighted, our biggest question and the biggest threat that we are seeing, we are seeing that there is a big question mark emerging within the people of our region that since right now we see that the people in Gaza being killed, being displaced and we didn't see the same stance that's happening in different conflicts when it comes to the issue and killing the Palestinian people. We see that there is an abandonment of you know the first principles of right and wrong, and we just judge without judging the act. I'm meaning not only Ukraine, Ukraine and other conflicts, we are not really looking at the act itself, but we always determine whether it's about the perpetrator and whoever the is affected by these acts and to decide whether it's right or wrong.


And our people now are questioning our credibility as countries now did we step up and did enough to protect those Palestinian civilians over there. And whenever also they are seeing non state actors emerging and you know doing things, claiming that these are to protect the people in Gaza, then how we are going to face our people by telling them we couldn't do enough, we couldn't help the Palestinians, but the others are trying to exploit the situation. So I think we are on the crossroads right now and it's very critical that we stand for a rule based international order that everyone is talking about here in Munich and in other events and we don't differentiate depends on who are the people who commit these acts or who been the victims of the act.


Part II: Q&A with the Audience


Question 1 (Mina Al-Oraibi, The National): You Excellency I appreciate you have to be very careful what you can tell us about the negotiations, but the longer-term vision for Palestinian leadership, do you see this idea of a reformed PLO (some people have said rather than the PA, a reformed PLO)?  And with that, a message to the Palestinian people that we're all here, we don't see enough of their representation, how can we ensure that Rafah is not attacked? That is the most immediate concern.


His Excellency: Well, regarding the first part of your question, actually I think that right now we are focused on the priority how to end this war and how to avoid further escalation. On the bigger question of the PLO and the PA, we believe that right now, the PLO, as I mentioned, is the representative that's being recognized after Oslo as the representative of the Palestinian people. The PA is the authority that governing the West Bank right now. Unfortunately, after the division they are not governing Gaza anymore. We would like to see a unified Palestinian government that represent the Palestinian people that will be in West Bank and Gaza and of course all the Palestinians who are willing to recognize and subscribe to the principles of the PLO need to be included and need to be a representative organization for all the Palestinian people until they get into their statehood.


Now on the question of Rafah, we see no reason of the continuation of the war in the first place and unfortunately, we know the importance and we recognize the importance to have a deal on the hostages and to get the hostages back to their families, but also, we recognize the importance of stopping the war today, even without any preconditions. And we believe that stopping the war will bring the hostage back, a hostage deal will bring an end for the war. But we would like to see this is happening without any further excuses. That's now this is the dilemma that we’ve been in and unfortunately that's being misused by a lot of countries, that in order to get a ceasefire, it's conditional to have the hostage deal. It shouldn't be conditional, what’s conditional is the humanitarian catastrophe over there in Gaza.


Question 2 (Chinese): How is the in fact of some major power country like United States, China, we know the United States position, we know the Chinese position for this conflict. How do you think, how is it owners of the Chinese position to really China really wants to solve this conflict because China one side trying to and support the Palestine and the Gaza, but other side China today located 3 million Uyghurs Muslim and took Muslim concentration camp in the 21st century. So, one side suffering it is is the Muslim population is own citizen, other side to support the Palestinian. Or do you think it is really honors or it is really owner for this actions?


Question 3: First of all, I just want to commend both the State of Qatar and Norway as being pragmatic leaders and I think this is really something that needs to be celebrated because the tribalism on human rights issue has consequences which are going to be far, far, far outreaching, and intergenerational perhaps. So I really just want to commend you on that. I just want to quickly ask perhaps two questions. This tribalism is leading to the victory of rogue states, whether you want to call it the country that attacked Ukraine or the country that is continuing to do unprecedented human rights abuse of the Palestinian people and why I call it unprecedented is because there is perhaps no time in my living memory where the UN and the entire multilateral order, or the multilateral system, the rules-based order that we talk about has been screaming that this needs to stop and has been given evidence over evidence including the ICJ. And the reaction of the holders of the rules-based order and propagators of human rights seems to be missing. Now I'm concerned about the precedent setting of self-defense being carried to an extent where such emulation of people can be stood by and what this creates for the future of conflict of peace in the world that we live in.


So Prime Minister of Qatar, my question to you, I guess would be that on Russia, I think a lot of people would ask that Human Rights Council in many other places there was active movement to you know, to various ways to try and stop or to try and give some sort of punishment, right. And on the question of Israel, I think a lot of people are looking towards Muslim countries who have the wherewithal to see what has been done and understand the need for negotiation and the need to continue to move forward.


Lastly, just one brief comment, it is absolutely right and I can be perhaps you know understand completely when people say that Hamas cannot be part of a future solution or negotiation, but wouldn't the same token then require that the State of Israel, which is now amassing such massive human rights abuse, may also not be part of any future negotiation if you were to take the same logic forward, so just you know that question.


Moderator (Yalda Hakim): Prime Minister I guess you touched on you know how you can be answerable to your people and the international community’s sort of leadership on this. But if you had any further comments and then I guess if you wanted to touch on the Uyghurs question.


His Excellency: Well, I think that look as I mentioned, I think we need to apply the same principles to all of the conflicts and that's the way we see it, that's how we evaluated our position when Russia Ukraine happened, that's how we stand and that's the way we kept standing, that's the same thing we applied it to what's happened in Gaza or in any other conflict. Our worry is that you know, with all these reactions that carried with the war and with the current conflict in Gaza. Our people started to raise a lot of questions about our friendship, our alliance, our partnership with countries in the West which are changing position just because those are different people, those are us it means we are less, that's the mindset which is unfortunately is quite dangerous for our future.


The second thing, I'm talking about non-state actors trying to play a role in this conflict and that's what's really something that we've been warning from the beginning. That this conflict might have a spillover on the entire region, and we've seen this is happening right now, whether it's in Iraq, whether it's in Lebanon, or it's in the Red Sea. Yet us as a country in the region, we are trying our best, we are doing everything we can do possible, but we are not creating any change. So, what would be our position or how our credibility will be judged front of our people that's becoming a bigger question for all of us.


On the gentleman who asked me about China, I think that when it comes to the foreign policy on different conflicts, that's the area where I can comment, and we see the China position on the conflict in Gaza right now, or it’s overall on the Israeli Palestinian conflict, that's a position that we respect, we've seen very supportive and aligned with the position of the Arab states. But your question on an internal matter that relates to China, of course this is something where I'm not in a position to comment on right now and I believe what we judge, we judge now right now on the current conflict, what are the foreign policies of different countries?


Question 4 (Israeli): I must say that I find it quite difficult to hear distinguished panelists and also the mood here in the room. I want to remind everybody that on the 7th of October, people were killed in their bed. Heads of Israelis were beheaded, breasts of women were cut off and they played with it like football. And today Israelis don’t feel safe. My children don’t feel safe. I think that we’re entitled to feel safe and I think that we’re entitled to have security. So proportionality Mr. Prime Minister of Norway, yes. We do what we do with very close legal advice. Army people, foreign ministry people, and if that wouldn’t have been done, I think that the toll would have been much higher. Yes we do care about humanitarian aid. Trucks are pouring into Gaza. Why hundreds of trucks are stuck 20 kilometers after Rafah? Why? Why the UN is not taking care of distributing the humanitarian aid? Because there is a will to put pressure on Israel from the UN? We heard the Deputy Assistant of the Secretary General just a few days ago saying that Hamas is not a terror organization. Of course, it's not a terror organization, it's a Mother Theresa. So, I would like to say that kwe have, yes, we have the right for self-defense, we have the right to live in peace in our country. We don't want war, Israel is a democratic country and I'm a little bit puzzled from the atmosphere that I feel in this room. Just to remind everybody that we have our rights as well.


Moderator (Yalda Hakim): If you have some closing remarks…


His Excellency: Well first of all, I just wanted to, you know, say a final comment. We feel for all the people, the crimes are condemned, whoever is the perpetrator, and we feel for the victims and also the suffering on the Israeli side or on the Palestinian side. What we want, we want a better future for everyone and everyone to go back to his home safely.