Erna Solberg, who may become Norway’s next prime minister after Monday’s parliamentary election, seems to be keeping the door open for an attack on Syria even without a UN mandate. Current Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg won’t go along with a US-led attack but was likely to discuss the crisis with US President Barack Obama in Stockholm Wednesday evening.
Solberg, leader of Norway’s Conservative Party, has been leading public opinion poll for months. She appeared to overlook popular opinion, however, regarding what’s the best way to punish Syria’s leadership for its recent alleged gas attack on its own citizens. She told newspaper Dagsavisen on Tuesday that Norway may have “room to negotiate” on a Syrian attack, even without a green light from the UN Security Council.
“It’s not 100 percent certain that you must have a UN mandate in order for intervention to be grounded in the rule of law,” Solberg told Dagsavisen. “It would be desirable (to have a UN mandate) though, because it would give an attack stronger legitimacy.”
She pointed to the ongoing challenges when both Russia and China continue to veto use of military intervention in Syria. “At a certain point we may end up with the rule of law being interpreted such that you don’t necessarily need a UN mandate to intervene,” she said, pointing to other crises where Norway has chosen to use military force.
More than 100,000 persons have been killed and an estimated 2 million have fled Syria since its civil war began, leading to the greatest humanitarian crisis in recent memory. Stoltenberg calls the situation in Syria “deeply tragic,” and accuses the Assad regime in Syria of carrying out “gruesome attacks” on its own people, but notes that “also the opposition has been behind serious attacks.” The Syrian crisis is expected to be on the agenda when he and the the other Nordic prime ministers have dinner with Obama Wednesday night when the US president visits Stockholm.
Obama has sought the help of other countries in mounting a military intervention but France and Denmark are among the few European countries willing to go along. Norway has declined to participate in any attack without a UN mandate.
The Nordic prime ministers are also expected to discuss climate issues, a free trade agreement between the US and the EU and economic issues. Other current but sensitive issues including the US’ surveillance of its allies and own citizens, Obama’s failure to close the Guantanomo prison and the USA’s controversial drone attacks are likely to be left aside. One source told newspaper Aftenposten that “this is not an occasion for confrontation.”