Norway’s Role in the Middle East Peace Talks: Between a Strong State and a Weak Belligerent
This article focuses on the secret “back channel” negotiations that led to the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo agreement of September 1993. The author traces the evolution of Norway’s role from low-key facilitator to active mediator, paralleling the upgrading of the channel from an informal exploratory bridge-building exercise to official negotiations at the highest level. In detailing the unfolding of the talks and the Norwegian actors’ differing relations with the two sides, the article also sheds light on the limitations and drawbacks of third-party mediation (especially by a weak intermediary) in a peace process marked by a fundamental asymmetry of power between the negotiating parties.
Hilde Henriksen Waage, deputy director and senior researcher at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO), has worked extensively on Norway’s involvement in the Middle East, and is the author of “Peacemaking Is a Risky Business”: Norway’s Role in the Peace Process in the Middle East, 1993–96 (PRIO, 2004), a report commissioned by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.