Norway’s foreign minister will turn 50 next week, but Jonas Gahr Støre doesn’t see any reason to slow his pace or stay home to plan a party. Instead, he spent the weekend in the Middle East, meeting both Israeli and Palestinian leaders and predicting a new round of peace talks.
Støre (PicApp photo at right) turns 50 on the 25th of August, the same day that Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit celebrate their 9th wedding anniversary. None of them seems to have taken much summer holiday, regularly turning up in the news at a time when Norway traditionally slips into the summer doldrums.
Now, with the pace picking up as is usual in mid-August, Støre jetted off to the Middle East where he met first with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday before continuing on to Ramallah for meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians’ foreign minister and prime minister. On Monday he was to travel on to Gaza, reports newspaper Aftenposten.
The Palestinians and Israelis are under pressure to resume talks. Aftenposten reported that Støre spent a half-hour with Netanyahu, who has indicated willingness to enter into new negotiations with the Palestinians.
Støre told both sides that financial support from the so-called “donor lands,” which Norway heads, won’t continue forever, and that they must soon see some signs of progress in forming a peace pact.
Asked whether he predicts talks resuming in the next few weeks, Støre said he did. “I choose to answer ‘yes,'” Støre told Aftenposten, adding that the alternative would be bad.
The Israelis and the Palestinians haven’t met for direct talks for nearly two years, and the Palestinians’ Hamas leaders still don’t want to. Norway has long been involved in trying to broker peace in the Middle East and now, given Støre’s role as head of the donor group at present, he’s likely to be involved directly again.
His talks on Sunday with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad reportedly centered on themes for the donor group’s meeting in September.