Norwegians, Saudis agree to disagree

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There’s been a long parade of celebrities and dignitaries passing through Oslo in recent weeks, in connection with everything from the Eurovision Song Contest to conferences and officials visits. Among them was even a Saudi prince, but he and his Norwegian hosts didn’t agree on much besides a desire for more stable oil prices.

King Harald received Prince Salman at the Royal Palace in Oslo late last week. PHOTO: Kongehuset.no/Scanpix pool

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre disagrees with Prince Salman  bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud on human rights issues, democracy, the death sentence and women’s rights. Not much resembling Norway’s liberal policies, strong democracy and social welfare state, which strives for social equality, can be found in Saudi Arabia.

The two did agree, however, that they would prefer more stability in oil prices. Both Norway and Saudi Arabia are major oil producers and exporters, with their oil and gas providing much of the countries’ wealth.

Distribution of that wealth, however, differs greatly in the two countries and the two royal families also have entirely different views and roles. In Saudi Arabia, the royal family plays, for example, a decisive role in setting the country’s oil policies. In Norway, the royals have little real power and are not supposed to express political views.

King Harald met with Prince Salman at the Royal Palace, however, and Støre claimed the differences between Norway and Saudi Arabia make it even more important for Norwegian and Saudi officials to meet face to face.

“Personal relations with the leadership in Saudi Arabia is even more important, in relation to many other countries with whom we have more in common,” Støre told DN.

Prince Salman took time during his visit late last week to sample local culture and some major events. After meeting top politicians, including Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and the president of Norway’s Parliament, he was keen to visit Oslo’s Opera House and attend Saturday’s final of the Eurovision Song Contest. His views on the music and costumes, especially those worn by female performers, were not made public.

Views and News staff