WASHINGTON (Apr. 19)
The governments of Norway and Great Britain, which share oil from the North Sea fields, will not ask the controlling petroleum companies to sell any of it to Israel, the Embassies of the two countries made clear to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Inquiries by the JTA followed reports from Oslo after Vice President Wolter Mondale spoke there Tuesday that the Norwegian government has ruled that the North Sea oil is in the hands of private firms and the government will not intervene in its distribution. Earlier, the British government took a similar position.
Reporters traveling with Mondale on his Scandinavian visit noted that Norway’s fear of impairing its trade relations with Arab countries is the reason it is keeping away from supporting the U.S. guarantee of oil for 15 years to Israel. This guarantee stems from Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai and its oil wells there as a result of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.
At the Norwegian Embassy, the JTA was told that during his talks with Mondale, Norway’s Prime Minister Odvar Nordli said Norway does not have enough oil to supply any single country — “that is Israel.” Later, the Embassy spokesman added, Norway’s Foreign Minister Knut Frydenlund explained that the oil Norway obtains from the Norwegian continental shelf is distributed in the international market by private oil companies.
“It is a commercial transaction.” the spokesman reported Frydenlund as saying.” The government cannot impose on oil companies any restrictions where they can dispose of their oil.” He said there was “no discussion about this.” The matter “just came during talks.”
At the British Embassy, a spokesman told the JTA that Britain’s Secretary of State for Energy Anthony Wedgwood Benn has pointed out that the British government does not control North Sea oil and its movement to fixed contracts. “We don’t have the power to stop or divert oil” movement, he said. Therefore, the “United Kingdom could not intervene in contracts between oil producers and normal customers.”
On his arrival in Norway, Mondale said the U.S. is “not pressing” any country to help with oil supplies to Israel. He added, “We have discussed informally with other nations whether in a general way they would like to help should an event ever arise when oil is needed. There has been no specificity.”