Chinese and Norwegian diplomats meet in secret to restore relations

Relations between Norway and China have been shaky to say the least after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the prize to an incarcerated Chinese man, Liu Xiaobo. China reacted strongly, saying that relations between their two countries had been damaged. A deal was made with several European countries that made it possible for citizens to travel to Shanghai without applying for a visa in advance. Norway was no included in that deal.

“Some countries are not qualified because they have a people or a government of low quality and that act poorly,” was the comment from a Chinese official at the time.

During a review of foreign policy in the Norwegian Parliament Tuesday, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Espen Barth Eide, said that they were experiencing progress with the Chinese. Today, the Norwegian paper Aftenposten writes that diplomats from the two countries have been meeting in secret to work on the relations.

Prominent diplomats with mandates from highest authorities in Norway and China have been meeting on a regular basis since early summer last year. The aim has been finding a way past the difficult situation.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Espen Barth Eide, will not go in details who are at the meetings or where they take place, but Aftenposten writes that ambassador to Norway, Zhao Jun, is leading the negotiations on behalf of China.

Eide also says that the meetings are no taking place in a third country.

He says that the meetings are very concrete and that many of the conversations are about showing respect and respecting each others values.

Han sier at møtene er svært konkrete, og at mye av samtalene handler om at begge land må respektere og akseptere hverandres verdisyn.

To China it is crucial not to lose face. The previous ambassador to Norway demanded an apology from the authorities because of the peace award.

“They have stopped asking for an apology and they seem to be accepting that the Nobel Committee is independent. In our meetings we look to the future,” Eide says.

In his review of foreign policy in the Norwegian Parliament, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said the Norway must respect Chinas right to choose their own way of development. In asked if this also meant that Norway would no longer criticize any violations on human rights made by the Chinese, the answer was:

“We have exactly the same view of human rights as always. It is all about on how we choose to express this. This is a meeting between different ways of thinking and different sets of values. We believe that the dialogue we had before with China was both positive and constructive.”

No official announcement will be made at any point. In stead it will be seen in how the two countries once again begin interacting as always.

When the peace award was given in 2010 China and Norway was working on an agreement on free trade and the agreement was one of the first responses from China.

Minister of Foreign Affairs say that the losses of the Norwegian businesses have not been devastating.

“We are in close contact with the businesses. There have been some economic losses but nothing that cannot be overcome.”

See the full article in Norwegian here