Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

The documents that disappeared

Here in Parkveien 45, the Oslo agreement was signed in secret in 1993. It is not possible to find out how the disputed and historic agreement came into being. The papers from the negotiations are without a trace. Have Mona Juul and Terje Rød-Larsen privatized a piece of Norwegian history?


Last week it was exactly 13 years since Palestinians and Israelis met in secret negotiations on Norwegian soil. But the full truth about the Oslo Canal is still hidden from the Norwegian and international public. Ny Tid's investigations show that there is not a single document in Norway's public archives that shows that there were secret negotiations between Israel and the PLO on Norwegian soil in 1993.

This may mean that someone with knowledge and will has removed the historically important documents from the archive. Or that someone has not archived them at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) or other available archives. Ny Tids' search for the missing Foreign Ministry documents shows that the answer lies in the latter.

Shocked experts. Middle East experts that Ny Tid has spoken to think it is startling that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not have the documents from the secret negotiations.

- Through a long career with digging in Norwegian foreign policy, I have never experienced anything like it, says professor of international history at the University of Oslo, Helge Pharo. He is supported by Middle East experts Hilde Henriksen Waage and Nils Butenschøn.

- Signals must have come from someone in the network not to archive the documents. The question is whether there is a shadow archive with any of the actors, says Butenschøn at the Norwegian Center for Human Rights.

"Private" documents? Several key figures believe it is the married couple Mona Juul and Terje Rød-Larsen who should know where the documents are.

However, Rød-Larsen, former Fafo leader and current UN special envoy to Lebanon, claims in an e-mail to Ny Tid that he only sits on "private" notes and archives from his involvement in the Oslo negotiations. Mona Juul, Foreign Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs at Norway's permanent UN delegation in New York, will not answer whether she has any of the documents.

- I have no comment on that. I have dealt with this as an official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Beyond that, I see no need to answer that, she says in response to questions from Ny Tid (see interview page 21).

The Norwegian Archives Act justifies its order for archiving public documents with the importance of preserving the "memory of the nation".

The lack of documents in Norwegian public archives therefore represents a major gap in relation to the most prestigious foreign policy project in Norwegian history.

Set in the scene of the Foreign Ministry. The Oslo process, and its Norwegian actors, were boasted in the clouds in the Norwegian public after the then Foreign Minister Johan Jørgen Holst revealed the secret of the Oslo Canal at a press conference in Oslo on August 30, 1993.

Just a few weeks later, Holst and his Norwegian team stood in triumph outside the White House, overseeing the historic handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yassir Arafat. In one of the most difficult and locked-in conflicts of recent times, a handful of Norwegian diplomats had secretly and unconventionally managed to get two bitter enemies to talk to each other and promise each other peace.

The Oslo canal, which is called the secret negotiating channel in Norway, was set on stage and financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Foreign Ministry's rules require that everything that is relevant to a case or to the decision-making process in a case must be filed.

Nevertheless, there are no documents from these outstanding events in 1993 filed in the "memory of the nation".

All letters, notes, minutes and other important sources that document the negotiations and Norway's role as facilitator and mediator in the period from January to August 1993, are gone from the ministry's archives. Even the declaration of principle by the Palestinians and Israelis secretly prepared at Borregård Hovedgård in Sarpsborg in the spring of 1993 – the so-called Sarpsborg document – is gone without a trace.

"Fit sensational" When Ny Tid asks the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for an explanation of this, the ministry answers the following:

- The reason is that the documents have never been submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for archiving, says information adviser Rune Bjåstad in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In the same breath, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs refers to the fact that Johan Jørgen Holst's private archive is in the National Archives.

But even in the National Archives, Ny Tid does not find a single relevant document. The reason is simple: There are two shelf meters of papers by Holst in the National Archives. None of these documents, however, are from his tenure as foreign minister from April 1993 until his sudden death in 1994.

The Ministry of Defense has delivered Holst's archive to the National Archives. Ny Tid has gone through the hand-in list and received the National Archives' confirmation: The documents are from Holst's time as Minister and State Secretary in the Ministry of Defense, his time as State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the 1970s and 80s, and his scientific career.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for its part, has never submitted any documents from Holst's period as Foreign Minister to the National Archives.

Mona Juul is also surprised when Ny Tid tells her this:

- This is quite sensational in itself, she says.

On Israel's premises. The lack of documents in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the National Archives is no less troubled by the fact that the Oslo process has gone from being genius-declared to being subject to harsh criticism.

From a Palestinian point of view, many immediately withdrew from the Oslo Agreement. Well-known literary critic and Palestinian advocate Edward Said compared it to apartheid. Today, the Oslo process has ended up in history's scrap heap, while violence and terror continue between the parties.

Hilde Henriksen Waage, senior researcher at the Department of Peace Research (PRIO) and 1st amanuensis in history at the University of Oslo, is one of those who – with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – has evaluated Norway's role in the peace process through two reports: «Norwegians? Who needs Norwegians? » in 2001 and "Peacemaking Is a Risky Business" in 2004.

Her conclusions led to a violent rebellion and violent reactions, not least from Terje Rød-Larsen and Mona Juul. First, Henriksen Waage proved that it was Thorvald Stoltenberg, and not Rød-Larsen or Juul, who had first confidently planned a Norwegian negotiation channel in 1989.

- Moreover, I concluded that a small country can not accomplish more than what the strong party can agree to. That is, the entire peace process took place on Israel's terms, says Henriksen Waage.

Think the papers are in the Foreign Office. The experts Ny Tid has spoken to raise the question of whether in this context some of the Norwegian actors may have been interested in keeping the documents away from the public's critical light.

In the exclusive "Oslo Club", the network of Norwegians who participated in and knew about the secret negotiations, there were six main characters: Thorvald Stoltenberg, Johan Jørgen Holst, Jan Egeland, Mona Juul, Terje Rød-Larsen and Marianne Heiberg.

This six-man group can again be divided into three pairs: Stoltenberg and Egeland, the Holst / Heiberg couple and the Juul / Rød-Larsen couple.

Surprisingly, it appears that both Stoltenberg and Egeland believe that the documents from the Oslo Canal are filed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ny Tid has asked Stoltenberg if he himself is sitting on the Sarpsborg document or if he knows where Ny Tid can get it. The former Foreign Minister replies that he "personally does not have the document" and that he therefore advises Ny Tid to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs "which has documentation about the Oslo process"

Boxes of papers. Former State Secretary Jan Egeland writes in his e-mails to Ny Tid that he has read the Sarpsborg document, but that he does not know if he has it now. Egeland apologizes for having a number of boxes of papers that are "private and semi-official about each other" lying on "four or five former jobs and homes". Only when he will once write his memoirs will he take the job of going through it all.

However, in the case of other documents, such as letters that Foreign Minister Holst wrote to his Israeli colleague Shimon Peres after having had talks with PLO leader Yassir Arafat in Tunisia in July 1993, Egeland writes:

"Holst's letters must have a copy of UD. You can ask them for access to the entire negotiating file? "

It is therefore conceivable that some of the Foreign Ministry documents are in one of Egeland's coffers. But neither Egeland nor Stoltenberg knew that documents from the Oslo Channel's days are missing in the Foreign Ministry's archives, when they were contacted by Ny Tid.

Moreover, Stoltenberg and Egeland were primarily active in the first part of the Oslo canal, which precludes them from sitting on many of the important documents from the most intense period of the negotiations.

While Stoltenberg, as Foreign Minister, largely contented himself with being kept informed of the secret negotiations, the now deceased Holst, from April 1, 1993, ran a very active line. At the same time, his spouse, Marianne Heiberg, became part of the "Oslo Club".

Geir O. Pedersen, an employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was also invited to join the network at this time. However, Pedersen had a peripheral role and has also not answered questions from Ny Tid if he knows where documents from the Oslo channel are located.

Wanted the documents. As late as December 2004, Marianne Heiberg died. It is therefore impossible to know for sure what the Holst / Heiberg couple had and did not have of documents.

Experts Ny Tid has spoken to believe, however, that it is very doubtful that the missing Foreign Ministry documents may have ended up with Holst and Heiberg privately.

Before Heiberg died, she repeatedly expressed frustration that the documents were not to be found in their homes and that she did not know where they were.

One of those who knew her well is Nils Butenschøn, Middle East expert at the Norwegian Center for Human Rights. Heiberg contacted Butenschøn with suggestions that they should write about the Oslo Canal and the secret negotiations together, regardless of the other Norwegian players.

- It seemed as if it was imperative for Heiberg, but at the same time difficult for the sake of her deceased husband, to produce a different version of events than the public knew. The lack of documents in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was a key motive for Heiberg, says Butenschøn, who says that the project never materialized due to lack of time.

Henriksen Waage, one of Norway's foremost Middle East experts, also had talks with Heiberg about this.

- When I interviewed her, she claimed that there were no documents in her home after her husband that were about the secret negotiations, says Henriksen Waage.

According to the Middle East expert Heiberg's theory was that the married couple Juul / Rød-Larsen had "taken" the documents.

Must have been Juul's responsibility. It has emerged that it was Mona Juul and Terje Rød-Larsen who were closest to the parties in the secret negotiations. The couple were present all the time and assisted the Palestinians and Israelis from the first secret meeting in Sarpsborg on January 20 until the Oslo Agreement was secretly signed in Oslo on August 19, 1993.

One of the rounds of negotiations even took place at the home of Rød-Larsen and Juul in their private apartment in Oslo. Juul and Rød-Larsen who traveled with Holst both to Tunisia to have talks with Arafat, to Israel to talk to Rabin, to Stockholm to put the finishing touches on the negotiations with Peres, and to the United States to get the Americans' blessing completely in the final phase. Holst himself wrote in a letter to Peres from Tunisia that "Terje Rød-Larsen and Mona Juul, who belong to my secretariat, have both played a key role in managing 'the Norwegian channel' and are my special envoys. They need to inform your people directly ». Henriksen Waage points out that in the most important phase of the negotiations from July to August 1993, only three people were physically close to the documents; Holst, Rød-Larsen and Juul.

- Only Mona Juul was employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Foreign Minister's secretariat. It must have been her responsibility to keep the Foreign Minister's papers in order, says Henriksen Waage.

Refers to Fafo. However, the couple Rød-Larsen and Juul are reluctant to answer questions from Ny Tid.

In an interview with Ny Tid, Juul will first not answer whether she herself is sitting on any of the missing Foreign Ministry documents. Juul later replies that she does not have a copy of the letter Holst wrote to Peres from Tunis. If she has the other documents, she still will not comment.

Both Juul and Rød-Larsen inform Ny Tid that Fafo may be sitting on some of the documents. But this is refuted by the research foundation Fafo to Ny Tid.

- Fafo can not have documents from the Norwegian Foreign Minister, written by him on a trip with Rød-Larsen and Juul. In that case, the couple themselves must have placed secret Norwegian documents belonging to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Fafo, says Henriksen Waage.

When Henriksen Waage worked on her second report, "Peacemaking Is a Risky Business", she was cleared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and gained full access to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' archives. She spat out documents in "buckets and buckets" which were about Norway's role and the peace process. But for the months from January to August 1993 – the time period for the Oslo Canal – she found nothing.

- Not a single document that mentioned Norway's role and the secret negotiations is in the archive. Not a single one. And this despite the fact that Johan Jørgen Holst was known as the most writing foreign minister in recent Norwegian history, Henriksen Waage emphasizes.

In vain did she try to make the public aware of this when it stormed the worst around her report in 2004. But the attempt to point out that there were no documents in the Foreign Ministry's archives about the secret negotiations drowned in the outcry that met her in the Norwegian public. At the forefront was Rød-Larsen, who accused Henriksen Waage of lacking source evidence from the Oslo Channel's period – without the press realizing that Henriksen Waage in his report just made a point out that these sources are missing in the Foreign Ministry's archives.

War and diplomacy. Big was therefore Henriksen Waage's surprise when NRK reporter Odd Karsten Tveit's latest book, War and Diplomacy, came out in the autumn of 2004.

It was then immediately clear to Henriksen Waage that Tveit must have had access to documents that should have been filed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

- Tveit refers, for example, to Foreign Minister Holst's visit to Tunisia, where he met PLO chief Arafat. Holst subsequently wrote a personal report from the meeting with Arafat, as well as a letter to Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. He asked Rød-Larsen and Juul to take both to Israel and hand them over to Peres, both quoting Tveit from in his book, says Henriksen Waage.

Tveit's book is full of references to sources and confidential conversations from the Oslo Channel's secret negotiations. And his book carries a lot of "evidence" that there are written documents that should have been found in the Foreign Ministry's archives, according to the experts Ny Tid has spoken to. With regard to the mentioned Sarpsborg document, Tveit writes that "Rød-Larsen received a copy of the Palestinians and the Israelis which he was to pass on to Foreign Minister Stoltenberg and State Secretary Egeland".

How Tveit has obtained many of the documents he cites is uncertain. First, the NRK reporter refers to the source protection. Secondly, in his book he has around 200 notes with reference to the National Archives, where Tveit has set a deadline of 25 years for access to the source material.

Ny Tid has spoken to Tveit who says that he does not want to reveal his sources, as he has also stated to other media before.

- The opinion is entitled to know where some authors have received documents from, when Hilde Henriksen Waage is accused of daydreaming in her descriptions of the events during the secret negotiations, says Professor Helge Pharo.

- I believe that the Norwegian and international public should now confront key people with the lack of documents in the Foreign Ministry's archives, so that the whole and complete truth about the historical and secret negotiations is made public, says Henriksen Waage.


You may also like