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Norway urged to mend ties after award to convict

Updated: 2013-01-23 02:25
By Zhou Wa ( China Daily)

Following Oslo's agreement to support China's application for permanent observer status to the Arctic Council, Beijing on Tuesday urged Norway again to take concrete measures to improve China-Norway ties.

Observers were optimistic that the two countries can improve relations in the future.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a daily news briefing that China hopes Norway will take concrete steps to create conditions for improving bilateral ties and China expects Norway to respect China's core concerns.

The Arctic Council was established in 1996 to provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic states, with the involvement of the indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common issues. Issues of sustainable development and environmental protection are core topics for the council.

When asked if Norway's latest stance supporting China's bid for permanent observer status could be enough to improve bilateral ties, Hong said that mending relations is up to Norway.

"China always maintains that Arctic nations and non-Arctic ones should cooperate on Arctic issues on the basis of respecting each other's rights and understanding all parties' concerns, in order to ensure peaceful and sustainable Arctic development," Hong said.

"Arctic-related issues are not only regional matters, but also cross-regional matters involving climate change and navigation," he added. Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barthe Eide said on Monday that Norway will support China's application.

"We are supportive of the enlargement of the number of observers and we are now working with other members toward a decision at the coming ministerial meeting in May," Eide said at a news conference after signing the agreement on setting up the Secretariat of the Arctic Council in Tromso, a northern Norwegian city. Norway wants to discuss Arctic-related issues with all relevant countries, including China, said Eide.

"You know, Norway and China are neighbors with only one country between us," added the Norwegian foreign minister.

Bilateral ties between China and Norway suffered in 2010 when the Norwegian Nobel committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to writer Liu Xiaobo, who was convicted of inciting subversion of state power in 2009. He was sentenced to 11 years in jail and deprived of his political rights for two years, according to Xinhua News Agency.

Soured relations between China and Norway are the result of the Norwegian government's support of the Nobel committee's wrong decision, and the decision made in 2010 severely infringed upon China's internal affairs and judicial sovereignty, Hong said in a previous news briefing on Oct 12, 2012.

He emphasized that it is up to the Norwegian government to make efforts to get bilateral ties back on track.

By backing China's bid for permanent observer status to the Arctic Council, Oslo is making an effort to improve strained relations with Beijing, said Feng Zhongping, director of the Institute of European Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Oslo is attempting to create a favorable atmosphere to improve ties, said Chen Mingming, former Chinese ambassador to Sweden. But it does not mean that Oslo has corrected its mistake. Whether bilateral ties improve depends on how Oslo deals with its wrong decision in Liu's case, he said.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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