Saudis set sights on fancy embassy

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Saudi Arabia’s search for an embassy site in Oslo has revealed the Saudis’ desire to make an impression on the city’s landscape. One city official says they want to take over or build a palace or some other monumental structure.

Saudi Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a brother to the king of Saudi Arabia, was in Oslo in May with another large delegation, and met with Norway's King Harald. PHOTO: Kongehuset.no

The Saudis have been on the lookout for an embassy site for quite a while. Newspaper Aften reported Tuesday that Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry sent another delegation to Oslo late last month, and let it be known that they have clear ideas about what they want.

“They want their embassy to make its mark on the city, so most of all they want either a palace or a monument building,” Ståle Hagen of the Conservative Party, who deals with city development issues, told Aften

Hagen said that officials from both Norway’s Foreign Ministry and the city of Oslo were told “what desires they had for both a building and a location, and some properties they were interested in.”

Hagen said the Saudi delegation was aware that the ornate building now housing Norway’s National Gallery may soon be available, given plans to consolidate various branches of the National Museum at a new site. They also reportedly were interested in the current site of the Astrup Fearnley Museum, which plans to move from its downtown location to the new Tjuvholmen complex rising on Oslo’s western waterfront.

Two other properties of interest are on Oslo’s fashionable street called Drammensveien, which already sports many embassies, but one of the properties in question currently houses Argentina’s embassy.

City officials, meanwhile, reportedly offered a rundown villa in the working class district of Sagene, northeast of downtown. It needs a lot of rehabilitation, “but since a decision on establishment of an embassy in Oslo comes from the highest levels in Saudi Arabia, it won’t hinge on money,” claimed Hagen.

He said he’s glad the Saudis are interested in setting up an embassy in Oslo. “You can say what you want about their culture and rule, but it’s a stable country and Norway can gain from a cooperation,” Hagen said. “Especially given the two countries’ common interest for oil production and technology.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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