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'Dalai Lama meet would make China clash eternal'

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'Dalai Lama meet would make China clash eternal'
Parliament president Olemic Thommessen and Nina Elisabeth Høstmælingen Thommessen arrive at the Nobel Banquet at the Grand Hotel in December. Photo: Fredrik Varfjell/NTB Scanpix
08:40 CEST+02:00
The president of the Norwegian parliament has defended his decision not to meet the Dalai Lama when he comes to Oslo next month, arguing that to do so would destroy years of painstaking work to mend relations with China.
"I do not think it is a cowardly decision,"  Olemic Thommessen, an MP for the Conservative party, told Aftenposten. "I think I have made a decision that is responsible and appropriate to safeguarding Norwegian interests. This is not a capitulation to China. This is a matter of not making the situation between China and Norway harder." 
 
Norway has been using soft diplomacy to mend relations with China, which were seriously damaged in 2010, when the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. 
 
In February, Bergen's KODE Art Museum returned seven marble columns taken from the Old Summer Palace in Beijing more than a century ago. 
 
This month the National Library of Norway sent the country a rare print of the 1927 Chinese film, The Cave of the Silken Web. 
 
Thommessen told the newspaper that the political fall-out from China if he met the Tibetan spiritual leader would be intense. 
 
"It would put an end to the ongoing efforts to get started with a normalization," he said. "I think we need to consider our actions, based on the situation that actually prevails. Since 2010, we have had absolutely no contact with Chinese authorities." 
 
Henning Kristoffersen, a China expert with country risk consultants DNV GL, backed up Thommessen in an interview with Aftenposten. 
 
"If the government wants to regain a normal relationship with China, it must refrain from meeting the Dalai Lama," he told the paper. "One thing is certain: If the government meets the Dalai Lama, the conflict with China will continue into eternity." 
 
The exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, Tenzin Gyatso, will visit Oslo from May 7th to 9th at the invitation of the Norwegian Nobel Committee,  the Karma Tashi Ling Buddhist Society and the Norwegian Tibet Society. 
 
On May 9th, he is visiting the Norwegian parliament to meet Ketil Kjenseth, a politician from the Liberal Party who leads the parliamentary Tibet committee. 
 
Thommessen has caused scandal by requesting that the Dalai Lama use a back door entrance to parliament and refusing to allow him to be met in the most prestigious parliamentary chambers. 
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