Background Briefing on Secretary Kerry's Travel to Norway, Denmark, and Greenland

Special Briefing
Office of the Spokesperson
Senior State Department Official
Washington, DC
June 10, 2016


MODERATOR: Okay, we are officially starting this call. I’d like to thank everyone for joining us this morning. We have a senior State Department official who will be previewing the trip to Norway, Denmark, and Greenland. For the record, this is [name and title withheld]. [Senior State Department Official] will be known as senior State Department official. [Senior State Department Official]?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, thanks very much – appreciate you guys coming. Obviously, this trip will have a heavy environmental focus, going to areas that are still rather pristine, and to highlight the environmental agenda that the Secretary and the State Department are so, so committed to in terms of oceans, preservation of the Arctic, and relationships with our very excellent allies. You remember the – we had the Nordic summit last month that included both Norway and Denmark, and I think some of the same folks will be participating in this trip with the Secretary. He’ll be meeting – discussing some of the same issues that were discussed in the summit.

If you want, I can go through the agenda that we have – the schedule. So on the 15th, the Secretary will – the party will land in Oslo and participate in the Oslo Forum, which is a conflict mediation – I don’t know if you can hear me in the back – is a conflict mediation grouping. The Secretary will give remarks there and take a few questions from the participants. After that, move to lunch with the prime minister, Prime Minister Solberg, the Norwegian prime minister, and then do a press avail afterwards with the prime minister. Subsequently, the Secretary will move to the REDD, the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Conference, which is about logging and the importance of forests. And then we’ll meet the king, King Harald V in Oslo. And he’ll end the day with a dinner with Foreign Minister Brende. So that’s Wednesday.

Thursday, up very early to fly to Svalbard, which is an island in the north of Norway, and there’s a number of transits there. We fly in a – the larger aircraft to Longyearbyen Airport, and then we take a smaller Norwegian flight in a charted aircraft up to Ny-Alesund, which is an Arctic research station of, I believe, nine countries that participate up there. We – the United States does not, but we work closely the countries up there in terms of Arctic research. The Secretary will have a briefing and a tour of the lab and then go off to a glacier cruise to note the effect of global warming, and see sort of firsthand what the things that we talk about in warmer climes, how they’re affecting the ice up north. There will be a working lunch at the Amundsen Inn and then depart – return to Copenhagen via Longyearbyen that evening. Arrive evening Thursday back in Copenhagen, meet with the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen, and then have a dinner hosted by the Foreign Minister Jensen, and that’s the end of Thursday.

Friday morning, we’re still in Copenhagen. Again, we hope to have a meeting with the – with Queen Margrethe, and there should – we’re also planning on a visit to a youth-focused CVE partner called GAME in Copenhagen with the foreign minister, Foreign Minister Jensen, and that will highlight kind of the activities of Denmark in sort of fighting foreign fighters and sort of dealing with the issues that – of minority integration and youth integration in society.

Then another kind of Arctic trip. We depart about noonish, go to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland, and then we transfer to a smaller aircraft to go to Ilulissat, meet the foreign minister of Greenland in the Arctic Hotel, and then we do another cruise by a, larger boats provided by the Royal Danish Navy to see two UNESCO World Heritage sites that are above the Arctic Circle and see what is the fastest-moving glacier in the world. Then we reverse the trip, come back, arrive Kangerlussuaq, and the Secretary then departs back to JBA from there. So that’s the outline of the trip.

MODERATOR: Do you want to talk about some of the priorities --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sure.

MODERATOR: -- some of the big issues?

QUESTION: Can I get --

MODERATOR: Or Matt, if you want to --

QUESTION: Well, I just wanted to --

MODERATOR: Yeah.

QUESTION: This is a truly logistical question.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay.

QUESTION: How cold is it? (Laughter.)

MODERATOR: But wait, I have Google up.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think this is around zero degrees centigrade.

QUESTION: All right. So we need to bring warm clothes.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You need to bring warm – this is not sub-Arctic.

QUESTION: This is not Vietnam.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: This is not sub-Arctic.

QUESTION: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: But it is also not a polo shirt and shorts.

QUESTION: Right. So we’re going from Zika to polar bears.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Parkas, hats.

MODERATOR: No linen jackets. (Laughter.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So parkas, hats, gloves.

QUESTION: Okay. All right.

MODERATOR: Do you want to talk just a few --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sure. Yeah --

QUESTION: I’d be interested to know what you all – the Oslo Forum --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Right.

QUESTION: What exactly is going to be discussed there?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, the Oslo Forum, it’s – the Scandinavians and the Norwegians in particular are very interested in sort of mediation and conflict resolution. You know that the – they’re involved around the world in – for example, they’re participating in the discussions in Colombia with the FARC. The Norwegians see themselves as good offices in a number of different conflicts. And the Oslo Forum is essentially an annual retreat what brings together people that are involved and interested in resolving conflicts into a meeting where there’ll be panels and discussions of sort of how do you resolve armed conflicts without more armed conflict.

QUESTION: Does he have a --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: He has a speaking role there. He’ll be – it’ll be --

QUESTION: Yeah, I know, but what his remarks will be --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: His remarks will be discussing the importance of sort of what we believe our contributions are to mediation and sort of appreciating the efforts of our partners as well in this area.

QUESTION: Okay. So other than the – obviously, the Oslo accords or (inaudible) and – where were they? Sri Lanka? (Inaudible) Sri Lanka, Sudan?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Are they --

QUESTION: And then Colombia?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They’re in – well, they’re participating in the Colombian – they have a representative in the FARC discussions with the Government of Colombia.

MODERATOR: Also --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Also the demining – there was a demining accord that came out of the Nordic summit talking about contributions to demining and IED removal, and the sort of U.S. role and the U.S. reliance on partners also in Iraq and Afghanistan to help us resolve the IED and explosives problems we have there.

MODERATOR: They’re also members of the troika on Sudan.

QUESTION: Yeah, and I think that they chair the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, right?

MODERATOR: We can check that.

QUESTION: I think (inaudible). In Denmark --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- are there any burning issues --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Burning issues?

QUESTION: -- between – with us and the Danes?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Burning issues? We – of course, we’d like to see an increase in defense spending on the part of the Danes, NATO contributions. We appreciate sort of --

QUESTION: So is that issue in Norway?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, Norway is a – is – has increased it. But again, we would like to see 2 percent for NATO contributions there as well.

QUESTION: So that’s – is that the only (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, it’s not the only – I mean, again, this is – these are sort of the kind of partners that the President noted during his remarks and the thing that we are lucky to have. These are people who share our values.

QUESTION: Right. Didn’t he actually say something about the Nordic countries (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’ve forgotten the exact quote, but he did say something like, “Wouldn’t it be great if everybody were one of you?”

QUESTION: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So the burning issues we have there tend to be “Great stuff, can you do more?” But there – it’s – there are – there really aren’t any what I would classify as irritants in either – in either location.

QUESTION: I mean, other than the NATO contribution, where else would the U.S. like to see the Nordics involved more?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, we always are – are sort of advocates for greater regional cooperation and collaboration between the Nordics and the Baltics, better coordination, more close collaboration on Baltic Sea security. You have – in the Nordics, you have NATO members and non-NATO members. You have Finland and Sweden which are not, Denmark and Norway which are. And so how do you tie in those two different capacities of countries into one larger unit?

QUESTION: And then just on the environmental aspect, I mean, what specifically is the Secretary going to look at? I mean, Norway just issued mining licenses for the area up there. I mean, is the – what exactly on the environment (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I think the – there’s an oceans focus here largely because --

QUESTION: So ahead of Oceans summit.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Right, ahead of the Oceans – Oceans summit. Discussions of, obviously, fishing, glacier melting, and pollution and maintenance of the sea. The United States is – this year, we’re the chairpeople of the Arctic Council, and therefore we have a particular interest in the Arctic, as do these countries – preservation and maintenance of the Arctic, the quality of life for the residents of the Arctic, et cetera.

QUESTION: Is there a meeting of the Arctic Council?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Not during this trip.

QUESTION: No, no, I know. But coming up.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t know (inaudible).

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Any issues regarding Russia up in those areas?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I mean, Russia is – you had recent problems with migrants crossing the borders into Norway, and obviously, migrant flows into Denmark as well through Germany. Those seem to have abated for the moment. But that is, I think, something that was an issue until recently, and it’s something I know both countries are actively involved in. Certainly, the Norwegians have talked about it with the Russians, and the Danes, as are – are engaged in the EU migrant issues as well.

QUESTION: On the CVE, did the Danes have a particular problem with this?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t think they have – they have a problem with it, but they have a – if you look – they have what’s called the Aarhus Model (inaudible) engaged in finding municipal – a municipal-based model to combat it, to integrate sort of at-risk youth. And so they’re seen, I think, as global exemplars of how you could deal with this problem internally.

QUESTION: Do you know if there’s an estimate to the number of (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There probably is. I don’t have it off the top of my head.

QUESTION: I mean, is --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I mean, it’s an issue. It’s an issue throughout Europe and also in the Nords.

QUESTION: Right, okay.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary been up the – into the Arctic before?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No.

MODERATOR: We can check that. I’m not sure.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m not – I don’t believe so. I think this is his first visit, but we should check it.

QUESTION: Good.

QUESTION: Good.

MODERATOR: Just so you know, AHLC is chaired by Norway. You were correct.

Great. Thanks, you guys. Just to remember, we will do a transcript on this. It’s embargoed till wheels-down. Thanks so much for joining us and thanks to our senior State Department official. Great, great. Thanks, guys.