Busy day for Stoltenberg in DC

Bookmark and Share

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg wasn’t just prepared to meet US President Barack Obama in Washington DC  on Thursday. He also had meetings scheduled with other top officials including the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg met with US President Barack Obama in Oslo in 2009, and has been at the White House before, but Thursday's meeting would be the first between just the two of them in the Oval Office. PHOTO: Statsministerenskontor

Stoltenberg was due in the White House at 4pm Washington time for what was planned to be a 45-minute session with Obama. On the agenda, as reported earlier, are discussions on the international finance crisis, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported Thursday that Obama also was keen to learn more about how Norway came to agreement with Russia last year on the so-called dellinjen, which finally divided up territorial waters in the Barents Sea after decades of negotiation. The agreement opened up important areas for fishing, oil and gas exploration.

The US has had challenges setting its own territorial issues with the former Soviet Union, while Norway’s deal with Russia has been ratified by both sides. Norway has mostly retained good relations with its northern neighbour, despite occasional disputes over salmon imports and fishing rights.

Before meeting Obama, Stoltenberg also had a morning session scheduled with Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve Board. As head of the US’ central bank, Bernanke is a key player in the US’ monetary police and economic politics. Stoltenberg was also to meet US Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who serves as chairman of the US Foreign Relations Committee and also is one of 12 members of a committee appointed by Obama to work out a compromise on ways of reducing the federal deficit. Stoltenberg’s office called both Bernanke and Kerry “central” in the formation of US economic policy.

Stoltenberg was still being hammered in the Norwegian media as he left for Washington, for allegedly angering former US President George W Bush for incorrectly citing the contents of a phone conversation the two had right after Stoltenberg was first elected prime minister in 2005. That’s why Stoltenberg was never invited to the White House during the rest of the Bush Administration, according to the media reports, but there clearly were other reasons.

Stoltenberg and Bush shared few of the same views on politics and the Bush Administration was reportedly unhappy that Norway pulled out of NATO operations in Iraq, reduced its contribution in Afghanistan and had direct contact with the Palestinian group Hamas. Stoltenberg and Obama are more like-minded on political issues and Stoltenberg was looking forward to meeting him in the Oval Office. Stoltenberg and his colleagues from Norway were staying in the US’ official residence for guests in Washington, known as Blair House.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund