OSLO (AFP) - Norway said on Friday that its government would not meet the Dalai Lama during his visit to Oslo in May, in a controversial decision aimed at warming up icy relations with China.
"The government today decided that no representatives from the Norwegian authorities would meet the Dalai Lama when he is visiting Norway," Foreign Minister Boerge Brende told Norwegian newswire NTB.
Mr Brende told Norwegian newswire NTB that the decision was made due to "the absolutely extraordinary situation between China and Norway", which have not had "any real political contact" for several years.
Norway's decision came after the Chinese government issued a new warning this week that Beijing is "firmly opposed to other countries providing a platform for the Dalai Lama's activities that aim at dividing China".
Beijing considers Tibet an integral part of its territory and regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist.
The Tibetan spiritual leader is expected in Norway from May 7 to 9, having been invited by pro-Tibetan groups to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace prize.
Mr Svein Melby, a Norwegian expert in international affairs, said in a tweet that Oslo's decision sets "a dangerous precedent that undermines the right to decide ourselves who we want to visit our own country". "International reputation weakened," he added.
Public opinion is also firmly against it.
According to a survey published by the tabloid Verdens Gang, 60 per cent of Norwegians thought the government should meet the Dalai Lama and 50 per cent said it would be "cowardly" not to do so out of consideration for Beijing.
Despite the diplomatic freeze, trade between the two countries has grown in recent years and reached a new peak in 2013.