Still in mourning, but on the job

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Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has had to shift focus from world affairs to tragedies at home since terror struck Norway on July 22, but he’s been out traveling again for talks with, among others, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He also appears keen to share what he’s learned after weeks of attending funerals.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre had a lengthy meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with terrorism influencing the agenda. PHOTO: Marte Lerberg Kopstad/Utenriksdepartementet (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

“Norway is still in mourning,” Støre led off a commentary published on the Foreign Ministry’s web site. “Until now, it’s been most important to show compassion and solidarity with those who were hardest hit by the tragedy of July 22. ” As the country moves on, he believes the need to understand “the political implications of the atrocities” will be extremely demanding as well.

Støre and other government officials have made sure there’s been official representation at all 77 of the funerals held for victims of the bombing of government headquarters in Oslo and the massacre on the island of Utøya. The mourning period will officially end with a state-funded national memorial ceremony this weekend, to be aired live on Norwegian television and radio stations starting at 3pm Sunday afternoon.

Recovery will take much longer and “we all grieve in different ways,” Støre wrote, but “we all must find a way to move on.” His own process is underway not least after last week’s unusually long 90-minute meeting with Clinton in Washington DC, at which Clinton again expressed her country’s sympathy after the bombing and massacre carried out by a 32-year-old Norwegian man.

Støre joined others in visiting the impromptu memorials created through flowers and mementos that were set up all over Norway following the terrorist attacks. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

She praised Norway’s political engagement around the world, its recent contributions to the famine in Africa’s horn, and repeated plans to invite Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to the White House for a new meeting with US President Barack Obama. The two talked about the situation in Syria, after which Støre denied that the US is demanding the Syrian leader’s resignation, according to newspaper Aftenposten. They also discussed the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

But it was the terrorism of July 22 that most marked their talks, and still affects Støre’s agenda. Clinton said Norway’s response to the terror, in the form of even more stated commitment to tolerance, solidarity, democracy and openness, reflected the values she thinks most Norwegians spread both at home and abroad.

Støre wrote that the outpouring of sympathy shown towards Norway at its embassies around the world confirmed that the Norwegian response “has made a deep impression far beyond Norway’s borders.” He stressed that Norway “will not repay evil with evil.”

The people killed on July 22 “will continue to influence Norwegian politics for a long time,” Støre claimed. The attack on Utøya,  he noted, was “no accident, no natural disaster,” but rather a “carefully planned attack” on the youth movement of one political party (his own, the Labour Party).

“There is a growing realization of the almost incomprehensible truth that we are burying teenagers who have been murdered because of their political beliefs,” he wrote. On a personal note, he claimed that realization will set the course for the rest of his own political life – “to defend the values the killer has attacked in word and deed” and nurture his belief that “together, we can do better.”

For a rundown of our coverage of the terrorist attacks see our ALL STORIES listing.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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