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Norway wants to block China from Arctic Council: report
by Staff Writers
Oslo (AFP) Jan 25, 2012

Norway wants to block China's bid for observer status on the Arctic Council after a diplomatic row over the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, Norwegian daily Aftenposten said Wednesday.

"As long as the Chinese authorities refuse to speak to their Norwegian counterparts, it will be difficult for Norway to say yes to a (Chinese) candidacy to become a permanent observer on the Arctic Council," an unidentified "highly-placed diplomatic source" told the paper.

The Norwegian foreign ministry refused to comment on the report when contacted by AFP.

If the Aftenposten information were confirmed, it would be a turnaround for Oslo, which in the past has said it would support China in its Arctic Council ambitions.

The Arctic Council is an eight-country intergovernmental forum dedicated to questions concerning the region.

During an official visit to Beijing in August 2010, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said he was in favour of China being granted observer status.

But the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo, whom Beijing considers a "criminal", in October later that same year has sent relations between the two countries into a deep-freeze.

Beijing has refused to have any high-level contact with Norway to protest what it perceived as "meddling" in its affairs.

According to Aftenposten, China's interest in the Arctic Council lies in the opening up of a new shipping route through the region as the Arctic icecap melts.

Compared to traditional routes through the Suez Canal or the Cape of Good Hope, the Northeast Passage would considerably shorten the voyage between Europe and China.

The members of the Arctic Council are Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States.

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