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Rivlin hosts new UN envoy for Middle East peace process

President talks with Tor Wennesland about ‘current regional challenges,’ COVID pandemic and ‘the important opportunities the Abraham Accords offer the peoples of the region’

President Reuven Rivlin (R) hosts the new special UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on March 21, 2021. (Mark Neyman, GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin (R) hosts the new special UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on March 21, 2021. (Mark Neyman, GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday met the new UN special envoy for the Middle East process in Jerusalem.

Tor Wennesland, a veteran Norwegian diplomat with extensive experience in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, took up the post earlier this year.

“The president congratulated Wennesland on taking up the position and said he was happy to continue the good coordination he had with the previous head of UNSCO, Nikolay Mladenov. The president wished Mr. Wennesland success,” a statement from Rivlin’s office said.

“The two discussed the current regional challenges and the various needs raised by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the important opportunities the Abraham Accords offer the peoples of the region,” it added, referring to the recent US-brokered normalization deals between Israel and several Arab states.

Norway’s then special envoy for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland, left. during a meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh in Ramallah in June 2020 (WAFA)

Wennesland, 68, entered the Norwegian foreign ministry in 1983. He most recently served as the country’s special envoy for the Middle East peace process, a post he held for several years, during which he oversaw Oslo’s role as one of the key donors to the Palestinian Authority.

He replaced Nickolay Mladenov, a former Bulgarian foreign minister, who held the role of the UN’s special envoy since 2015. While advocating for a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines, Mladenov was generally appreciated by Israeli officials as an honest broker. He also won plaudits from officials the Palestinian Authority, United States and Hamas.

Mladenov was credited with having helped mediate several ceasefire agreements between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group, as well as for reportedly helping build support for using normalization with Arab countries as a carrot for Israel in exchange for shelving plans to annex the West Bank.

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