Oval Office meeting firmed relations

Bookmark and Share

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg finally got his 45 minutes of fame with US President Barack Obama and claimed his visit to the White House cemented the relationship between the US and Norway as “close allies.”

US President Barack Obama hosted Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the White House for a bilateral meeting on Thursday. PHOTO: Statsministerenskontoret/Daniel Sannum Lauten

The two men talked for less than an hour but emerged to report discussions on everything from the situation in South Sudan to last summer’s terrorist attacks on Stoltenberg’s Norwegian government. Obama thanked Norway for the role it played in the UN-backed and NATO-led operations in Libya, which helped lead to confirmation of the death of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi just a few hours before Stoltenberg and Obama met.

Afghanistan, euro crisis, Middle East…
Obama said after the meeting that other topics of conversation included “our partnership in Afghanistan where Norway has been a consistent partner, and discussed how we are going to move the transition forward so that Afghans can take full responsibility for their security by 2014, as we agreed to in Lisbon.”

Stoltenberg and Obama start talking while staff serves refreshments in the Oval Office. PHOTO: Statsministerenskontoret/Daniel Sannum Lauten

In addition, Obama said, the two leaders “shared our intentions to work closely with our European partners to stabilize the eurozone area.” Obama stressed that both Norway and the US wanted to ensure free trade, coordinated work practices, economic growth and energy security in Europe.

Both countries also “share the belief that we need a two-state solution in the Middle East,” Obama said, adding that Norway and the US “want to work very closely with both the Israelis and the Palestinians to arrive at a negotiated settlement.”

Climate change and some health issues were also on the agenda, but it’s unlikely they had time to get into much detail. Still, as former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik has said after he visited the White House, “just a few minutes with the US president can accomplish more than months of diplomatic talks” at a lower level.

Washington walk-about
Stoltenberg, who had opted to walk to the White House for his meeting with Obama instead of using a customary limousine, thanked Obama for his hospitality and “kind words” including those on Libya. “As you mentioned, we have accomplished what we had as our aim for the military operations in Libya: We protected civilians, we were able to stop Gadhafi (from) killing his own people. And I think it shows that we are able to implement decisions by the UN and NATO and that’s important in itself.”

Stoltenberg said the two also talked about the Arctic areas where Norway has a strong presence. “The High North is an area where we are seeing new possibilities, new challenges, but also new dangers,” Stoltenberg said. “And the ice is melting.  Actually, in the High North we see the consequences of global warming.  But at the same time, that opens up new possibilities for energy developments, but also for sea routes, and it increases the need for cooperation between the countries bordering the Arctic area, and the US and Norway are among them.”

Debate continues in Norway over development in the Arctic areas, most recently plans to open a new coal mine on Svalbard in addition to oil and gas exploration. Stoltenberg’s own government coalition partner, the Socialist Left party (SV), is highly skeptical of new energy development in the fragile Arctic areas.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund