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Norway's Foreign Minister denies lifting arms sale ban on Israel

January 30, 2014 at 10:00 am

The Norwegian Foreign Minister, Borge Brende, is insisting that his country will not change its policy of banning arms sales to Israel, despite calls to lift the ban from members of the right-wing Progress Party, which now shares power in the government.

During a meeting held on Wednesday with foreign correspondents in Norway, Brende stated that his government’s policies toward Israel and the Palestinians are still based on the Oslo peace accords that aim to encourage both sides to reach a just and lasting settlement.

In this context, he cited Kerry’s appeal to Norway on Friday to continue carrying out its positive role toward the Middle East peace process, especially given that Norway heads the donor group that provides aid to Palestinians, helping them to build an independent state.

Regarding developments in Syria, Brende expressed his regrets that the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate as a result of the civil war that has been ravaging the country for more than two and a half years. He said that Norway will make every effort to help Syrian refugees outside Syria and those homeless inside the war-torn country.

The Norwegian minister also noted that his country has pledged to offer nearly $150 million in humanitarian aid to Syria this year, adding that Norway will not spare any efforts to ease the suffering of Syrians.

On Norway’s role in destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, Brende explained that the committee of experts that was recently formed by the UN has requested for Norway to receive between 300 to 500 tons of sarin gas and 50 tons of mustard gas for destruction. But he noted that his country’s help can take many different forms, including financial contributions, and will not come only through destroying the chemical weapons.

He declined to confirm at this stage what Norway’s contribution would be, however he did reveal that his country currently does not possess the equipment required for destroying the weapons.

“We don’t have the experience and we don’t have the equipment… We have an expert group looking into this with the aim of clearing this up as soon as possible, but we cannot say before we have the necessary information to take a serious and well-informed decision,” he said.

He also pointed out that his country does not have the necessary equipment for disposing the toxic waste material that would be produced from this process.

“If it was to happen in Norway, then we would have to have an export guarantee from other countries that have the means of disposing the organic special waste… This has to be sent from Norway to another European country which has the capacity.”

He also declined to comment on the cost of sending Norwegian inspectors to join the UN envoy in Syria, while acknowledging the obstacles that these envoys have faced so far.