The two deputy foreign ministers met in preparation for the PA donors’ meeting to take place in London at the beginning of May.

(Communicated by the Deputy Foreign Minister’s Bureau)

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Majalli Whbee hosted his Norwegian counterpart, Raymond Johansen (9 April) at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. State Secretary Johansen, who is currently visiting Israel and the Palestinian Authority, is preparing for the PA donors’ meeting due to take place in London at the beginning of May.

Secretary Johansen, 47, a member of the Norwegian Labor Party, has visited the region five times since assuming office in September 2005. He has demonstrated a deep commitment to propelling the Israel-Palestinian peace process forward. In Oslo, Johansen made a public stand against the calls for boycotting Israel and, this coming June, is sponsoring an economic seminar in the Norwegian capital which will be devoted to the possibilities for economic cooperation between Norwegian and Israeli companies.

Deputy Minister Whbee thanked his guest for the visit and for his country’s efforts to arrange for Red Cross representatives to visit the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Hamas for almost two years. The two deputy ministers discussed regional issues, in the wake of Johansen’s recent visits to Lebanon, Damascus and the Palestinian Authority. Secretary Johansen conveyed his impressions to his Israeli counterpart and estimated that the situation in Lebanon – the absence of a president and the paralysis of the government administration – cannot continue for much longer.

Concerning Iran, the two agreed that an Iranian military nuclear program would totally destabilize the region. Deputy Minister Whbee expressed his belief that the completion of Iran’s nuclear program would challenge the relevance of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which Teheran signed, and of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is responsible for supervising activities in this field.

Deputy Ministry Whbee briefed Secretary Johansen and his staff on the latest developments in the negotiations with the PA leadership. He stressed that, although terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip put a damper on the negotiation atmosphere, Israel will not unilaterally call off the negotiations because of the attacks. Secretary Johansen condemned the attack at the Nahal Oz fuel depot and questioned why Hamas would hurt the interests of the Palestinian population in Gaza. Whbee asked his guest to continue to extend aid to the PA in order to strengthen the moderate camp within Palestinian society and mentioned that Israel intended to dismantle more checkpoints and road blocks in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

Regarding bilateral relations, DFM Whbee asked his guest to encourage other government ministers to visit Israel, especially those dealing with economic, cultural and scientific matters. He also asked Johansen to try to set up a mechanism for upgrading the bilateral relations despite the legitimate criticism that each side has of the other. He asked for Norway’s help in international fora, especially at the UN, in light of a number of multilateral initiatives, led by the Arab states, that could negatively set Israel apart.

At the end of their meeting, Secretary Johansen invited Deputy Minister Whbee to visit Oslo.