Israeli president, Belgian royals due for formal visits

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Norway’s foreign ministry announced on Friday that Israeli President Shimon Peres will travel to Norway for a state visit next month. He’ll arrive just two weeks after the Belgian royal couple makes an official visit as well.

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium will make the official rounds during their visit on April 30, paying calls on Norway’s King Harald and Queen Sonja, visiting the Norwegian Parliament, meeting with Prime Minister Erna Solberg and also visiting the Norwegian Folk Museum.

On May 12, Israel’s president will arrive for a full “state visit,” which involves even more pomp and ceremony than an “official visit.” Shimon Peres, who has been in Norway many times during his long political career, will be formally received at the Royal Palace by King Harald, be the guest of honor at a gala banquet at the Palace that evening and then at a luncheon at the historic Akershus Fortress and Castle.

Peres will stay until May 13 and the visit is viewed as an important step towards improving relations between Norway and Israel. Norway has played an active role for years in attempts to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and got along well with Israel’s earlier labour governments. Relations have been strained, however, during the years of Israel’s conservative governments, not least because of Norway’s support for the Palestinians as well as the Israelis. Norwegian politicians have claimed that criticizing Israeli politics can’t be equated with anti-semitism and now both sides, with a new conservative Norwegian government in place, seem keen to mend relations.

Israel’s embassy in Oslo currently lacks an ambassador after former envoy, Naim Araidi, was reportedly recalled following complaints of sexual harassment from embassy staff. Newspaper VG reported earlier this week that Israel is likely to replace Araidi with its outgoing ambassador to Spain, Raphael Schutz. He’s considered one of Israel’s most experienced diplomats and may be sent to Oslo to also further mend relations with Norway.

newsinenglish.no staff