Norway mourns with France

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The French Embassy in Oslo was receiving a stream of condolences from Norwegian officials and ordinary citizens on Saturday, following the coordinated terrorist attacks on Paris that began late Friday night. French Ambassador Jean-Marc Rives told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Saturday morning that it had been “a very long night, a very horrible night.”

"SYMPATHY FLOWERS FOR FRANCE" read the sign posted on buckets of fresh flowers placed outside a florist near the French Embassy in Oslo on Saturday morning. Passersby were urged to take a flower (one each) to place outside the embassy, following Friday nights deadly attacks on Paris. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

“SYMPATHY FLOWERS FOR FRANCE” read the sign posted on buckets of flowers placed outside a florist near the French Embassy in Oslo on Saturday morning. Passersby were urged to take a flower (one each) to place outside the embassy, following Friday nights deadly attacks on Paris. The flower shop, Villvin Display Blomster, didn’t want to profit on the French tragedy. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

NRK reported that the embassy in Oslo’s Frogner district was planning to open its doors to grieving French citizens resident in Norway. “We are overwhelmed, of course,” a sorrowful Rives told NRK. He expressed gratitude for the support and sympathy being extended after the deadly attacks on restaurants, a concert hall and football stadium that as of Saturday morning left 128 dead and nearly 200 injured, 99 of them critically.

Norway’s king, the prime minister and foreign minister were all swift to send their deepest condolences to the people of France late Friday night, on behalf of the people of Norway. Prime Minister Erna Solberg called the coordinated terrorist attacks around Paris, which began around 10pm, “horrifying.”

King Harald V issued a statement shortly after midnight that he had received news of the grufulle (ghastly) attacks with great sorrow. He expressed his “deepest condolences and sympathy” to “everyone who is affected and to the French people.” Queen Sonja, who speaks fluent French, has especially close ties to France and has spent lots of time in the country over the years.

Flowers were already appearing outside the French Embassy in Oslo Saturday morning, along with candles, signs of sympathy and support following the attacks on Paris. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Flowers were already appearing outside the French Embassy in Oslo Saturday morning, along with candles, signs of sympathy and support following the attacks on Paris. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Prime Minister Solberg sent out a message via social media saying she was “horrified by the terrible attacks in Paris.” Solberg and her foreign minister, Børge Brende, were to hold a press conference Saturday afternoon to address the attacks in more detail.

One of the issues that’s bound to come up is whether Norway’s state police directorate should reassess its decision, announced just hours before the terrorist attacks in Paris, that ordered Norwegian police to disarm. The decision was based on an assessment that the terror threat against Norway had declined, but only the day before, an Islamic cleric who’s lived in Norway for years, Mullah Krekar, was re-arrested along with two alleged accomplices on charges of being active in a network that Italian police claim was planning terrorist attacks in Norway and elsewhere in Europe. Both Krekar and the two others were ordered held in custody Friday evening.

Justice Minister Anders Anundsen of the Progress Party, who has long supported arming of the police but faced political opposition from Labour and other parties in Parliament, told NRK Saturday morning that there now is “increased danger of attack.” It remained unclear whether the disarming decision now might be reversed, and whether Norwegian police may once again be allowed to carry weapons.

Close ally
France, meanwhile, is not only a close ally of Norway but the ties between Norway and France are long and deep, with many Norwegians owning holiday homes in France, doing business in France and with Paris ranking as one of Norwegians’ top weekend destinations. Staff at the Norwegian foreign ministry worked through the night to follow the situation in Paris and try to gain an overview of how many Norwegians were in Paris and whether any were among the dead and wounded. The ministry reported on Saturday that there were “no indications” that Norwegians were among the victims.

Norwegians in Paris were urged via social media to report their whereabouts to family and friends and remain where they were, characterizing the situation in Paris as still difficult to assess. The ministry also alerted traveling Norwegians that French officials had declared a state of emergency and, at one point, closed the borders. Airline and train traffic was reported to be operating as normal, although some flights were reported to be canceled. The borders reopened, but with strict immigration control and passports were required.

‘Deeply shocked’
The usually globe-trotting Brende, who was at home in Norway in connection with the ongoing refugee crisis and state budget negotiations, showed up on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s near-constant coverage of the terrorist attacks to comment on them as they unfolded during the night. Brende said he “deeply shocked” by the attacks and he condemned the attacks in the strongest possible terms.

Brende, appearing live in NRK’s studio around 1am, said it was too early, however, to discuss how the attacks would affect the upcoming G7 summit in Turkey or the UN climate summit due to take place in Paris in a few weeks. “This is not the time to think about that yet,” Brende said, as he and other government officials struggled to come to grips with the attacks in the midst of an ongoing crisis posed by the thousands of refugees from Syria and elsewhere who’ve been fleeing Islamic extremists and pouring into Europe and, most recently, Norway, in recent months.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund