City loses embassy zoning battle

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City government officials in Oslo have given up trying to get the Israeli embassy to abide by local zoning regulations. For 12 years, the city has demanded that the embassy tear down a controversial security wall around its property that violates the regulations, but the embassy refused and now city politicians just want to end the conflict.

The Israeli embassy, pictured above, has criticized NRK's coverage over a number of decades. PHOTO: Views and News

The Israeli embassy, pictured above, has criticized NRK’s coverage over a number of decades. PHOTO: Views and News

“Oslo is the capital and that means we’re responsible for embassies and foreign representation,” Bård Folke Fredriksen, the city politician from the Conservative Party in charge of urban development, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) late last week. “It’s also natural that they (the embassies) are able to have security measures.”

The embassy’s wall, which has annoyed both neighbours and preservation experts, was built more than a decade ago with special dispensation from zoning laws on the proviso that it be temporary while the embassy searched for an alternative and more secure location.  The embassy, however, claimed it couldn’t find a more suitable location despite assistance from the foreign ministry and being presented with 22 alternative sites over the years.

City politicians repeatedly set new deadlines for the wall’s removal, but they were constantly extended under pressure from the foreign ministry and the diplomatic immunity enjoyed by embassy personnel who aren’t bound by local regulations. The embassy’s case was strengthened when the Norwegian authorities themselves put up a security wall around the newly built residence for the prime minister, located down the exclusive street known as Parkveien.

Now the city is caving in and withdrawing a demand that the Israeli embassy’s wall be torn down by 2015. It won’t be, and the embassy can remain at its Parkveien location for as long as it likes, Fredriksen said.

newsinenglish.no staff