Norway defies the West in its refusal to recognize the Hamas-led government in the Palestinian Authority, and wins praise from Condoleeza Rice.
OSLO (Reuters) – Norway told visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday that its recognition of the Palestinian unity government was designed to help diplomacy in the Middle East.
Last month Norway became the first Western state to recognize the Islamist Hamas-led Palestinian government — prompting U.S. and Israeli criticism — and said it would restore direct budget aid to it as soon as international banking sanctions were relaxed.
The United States and Israel say the Palestinian government must first recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence and adhere to the principles set by the Quartet of peace mediators — the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.
“Norway has normalized relations with the government, which means that we talk to them,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told a news conference with Rice.
“Norway will not be issuing carte blanche in any direction. We will be trying to pursue policies which draw in the right direction and which can also open (the way) for negotiations, and we also place very clear expectations on Israel.”
No mention of any clear expectations on the Palestinians.
“The Quartet’s principles are Norway’s principles,” Stoere said and added that Israel also had obligations to fulfil under previous agreements, which he said the Quartet also recognized.
He said Norway, which has said it expects its total aid to the Palestinian territory this year to reach about $100 million including direct budget support and other aid, had not been able to resume payments yet but hoped to do so soon.
Rice, on a 24-hour visit to the Norwegian capital during which she will attend a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, refrained from criticizing Norway and praised Stoere’s efforts.
“We are in agreement that a Palestinian government that fully recognizes the Quartet principles would be a very good step forward, and I know the minister has worked very hard in the contacts that he has had to try to push forward towards that goal,” she said.
You’ve broken ranks and defied us, but that’s okay. We know you’re working hard to try to push forward towards the goal.