Norway seeks to end China Nobel freeze

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17:46 CEST+02:00
Norway's foreign minister on Tuesday lamented the icy relations between his country and China since last year's Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a jailed Chinese dissident, and called on Beijing to turn the page.

"It is unnatural and untenable for Norway and China to have frozen political relations," Jonas Gahr Støre said in an interview with the Norwegian financial daily Dagens Naeringsliv (DN).

"We now have to use our energy to look to the future. The road forward should be that we resume political dialogue" between the two countries, he added.

China halted all high-level political dialogue with Norway after the Norwegian Nobel Committee on October 8th 2010 announced the Peace Prize would go to Chinese dissident and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, who Beijing considers a "criminal" and who is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for "subversion".

Beijing also suspended talks with Oslo on a free trade pact and has ordered such strict and time-consuming veterinary controls on Norwegian salmon that fresh fish has ended up rotting in Chinese warehouses, plunging exports to the Asian giant into freefall.

Norwegian business leaders have also reported running into increased difficulties on the massive Chinese market.

"It is a responsibility of political leaders to seek ways out of this situation," Støre said in an opinion piece also published in DN.

Støre stressed that the Nobel Committee's five members are totally independent in their prize decision even though they are appointed by the Norwegian parliament, as stipulated in prize creator Alfred Nobel's will.

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In the carefully-worded piece, Norway's chief diplomat highlighted his country's emphasis on human rights, but also stressed that he "respected China's right to choose its own development path on the basis of Chinese traditions and culture."

While political dialogue has been halted, bilateral trade -- excluding salmon -- has meanwhile soared, with Chinese imports from Norway rising 16 percent in the first half of the year and its exports to the Scandinavian country leaping 43 percent in the same period.

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