Remarks With Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere After Their Meeting
Secretary of State
Before I begin about the matters that we were discussing, I want once again to offer our deepest sympathies on behalf of the American people to our friends in Norway, especially the families of those who lost loved ones. In the days since those terrible events, the whole world has once again witnessed the resilience and dignity of the Norwegian people as they have comforted the bereaved, healed the wounded, and pulled together on behalf of a nation whose values we so greatly admire.
Once again, we see Norway setting an example for the world as a strong, generous, far-sighted member of the international community. But that is not a surprise because we see it on a regular basis. As food shortages, for example, threaten millions of lives in the Horn of Africa, we see Norway’s global leadership in development assistance and disaster relief. Norway has already contributed nearly $50 million in this crisis. In fact, every year Norway dedicates a full 1 percent of its GDP to promote sustainable development around the world, and that is a remarkably generous amount.
Norway’s commitment to this work is rooted in the understanding that it is not just the right thing to do, but as I said in my speech yesterday, it is the smart thing as well because of the direct impact that development has on global stability, security, and opportunity. This is an insight we should remember here in Washington as we have our own discussions about how best to allocate our budgetary resources. And today, the foreign minister and I discussed development priorities, and in particular the situation in the Horn of Africa.
Norway is rightly respected as a peacemaker and a peacekeeper, and I thanked the foreign minister in particular for Norway’s strong support of the people of Afghanistan, its commitment to achieving a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, its contributions to the NATO mission to protect civilians in Libya. And we discussed the importance of supporting the Libyan people as they plan for a post-Qadhafi reconstruction and stabilization period.
In addition, we discussed Syria, where we both remain acutely concerned about the Asad regime’s campaign of violence against their own citizens. Norway and our other European allies have been strong, consistent voices on behalf of the Syrian people, and I commend them for their advocacy. The Asad regime’s continued brutality is galvanizing international opinion. There has been a crescendo of condemnation not only from the world but in particular from the region.
After the Security Council statement, we’ve seen movement in rapid succession from the Arab League, the GCC, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others. The United States will continue to work with our partners to turn this growing consensus into increased pressure and isolation for the Asad regime. In particular, we urge those countries still buying Syrian oil and gas, those countries still sending Asad weapons, those countries whose political and economic support give him comfort in his brutality, to get on the right side of history. President Asad has lost the legitimacy to lead, and it is clear that Syria would be better off without him.
Yesterday, the United States imposed new sanctions and Ambassador Ford delivered a clear message to the Syrian Government: Immediately stop the violence, withdraw your security forces, respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for a democratic transition in concrete and meaningful ways. Now, it is something that we are watching closely and we are consulting closely with partners around the world, and we expect to see action.
So whether it’s promoting sustainable development or standing up for universal rights in the face of political violence, the United States and Norway are working together on so many important issues. And I thank the foreign minister for his partnership and his friendship and this visit, and I look forward to our continuing work together.
FOREIGN MINISTER STOERE: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Let me say on behalf of all Norwegians that the messages of comfort we have received from the President and the Vice President, yourself, on behalf of the American people and from American friends all over the United States, has been heartening. I can tell you as a foreign minister, I have seen it as my task to transmit these warm words to the families, and I have been going from funeral to funeral to follow young teenagers who ended their lives because they went to a political summer camp. So this is a very dramatic moment when Norwegians are coming together, and we feel that the support we get, which is heartfelt, is strong and important. So I thank you for that.
You gave an excellent summary of our discussions. I’d just like to say how much I appreciate these regular opportunities we have to compare notes. It happens almost monthly when we meet somewhere out traveling, but I appreciate these opportunities here at the State Department to do a systematic rundown.
We met in Greenland last time for the Arctic foreign minister meeting, illustrating that that is a new part of the world where we need good political stewardship to manage resources, look after the environment, and keep security and low tension. And we are succeeding in that. I think it’s an area where we will see a lot more attention in the future. It’s a priority in our foreign policy because it’s close to us as Norway in the north.
But as you said, we also have a partnership with the U.S. on a number of other issues and agendas, and the strength of that partnership is that open dialogue and the trust that you also have been showing as Secretary, and I thank you for that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Jonas.
MS. NULAND: Okay. We have time for two questions from the American side and two questions from the Norwegian side today. The first question to Arshad Mohammed from Reuters.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, yesterday in your interview with CBS, you said that what really needs to be done to bring pressure to bear on Syria is to sanction its oil and gas industry. What progress, if any, are you making in persuading European nations or India or China to curtail their significant investments in the oil and gas industry, and what countries in particular are still buying their oil and gas that you’d like to see them stop?
And then also on Syria, you talked about – it seemed as if yesterday you really are not leaning toward explicitly calling for Asad to go. It’s as if you want there to be a greater consensus among your allies to do that. What is the sort of hesitation on that? Are some of your partners like Turkey urging you not to do this, to give Asad a little more time, despite the acceleration of violence in the last week, ten days? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Arshad, I think it is fair to say that we have been engaging in intensive outreach and international diplomacy with many countries in the region and beyond to encourage and persuade them to speak out, number one, and then to join us in taking action, number two.
You’re aware that it took an intense effort to get the presidential statement, which we did finally see issued just about two weeks ago. And that statement was the first international statement that really captured what has become a growing consensus about Asad’s brutality and his refusal to follow up on any of the reforms that he has claimed to be supporting. Then, as I said, we saw in quick succession the Arab League, which reversed its position, the Gulf Coordinating Council, which made a very strong statement led by an important and welcome statement from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
So we are watching the growing crescendo of condemnation that I referenced, and I don’t think you should assume anything other than we’re trying and succeeding at putting together an international effort so that there will not be any temptation on the part of anyone inside the Asad regime to claim that it’s only the United States or maybe it’s only the West. Indeed, it’s the entire world.
And we’re making the case to our international partners to intensify the financial and political pressure to get the Syrian Government to cease its brutality against its own citizens and to make way for positive change. At the same time, we and others are reaching out to members of the opposition inside and outside of Syria to encourage them to create a unified vision of what an inclusive, participatory, democratic system in Syria could look like. So there’s a lot of work going on, and I think that that work is paying off.
QUESTION: Are you making progress on the oil and gas (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Stay tuned.
QUESTION: Have you –
MS. NULAND: Next question –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Stay tuned.
MS. NULAND: Next question on the Norwegian side to Anders Tvegard of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you for your ongoing and continued support after the terrorist attacks in Norway. Norway, your ally in the Middle East, will not add her voice to Syrian President Asad to step down at this moment because there are no clear alternative. How helpful is this in your ongoing diplomatic effort – the Norwegian position?
And if I may, in Afghanistan, U.S. is about to pull out a certain number of troops and Norway is concerned that the troop withdrawal will have an effect on the Norwegian forces on the ground. In what respect will Norway’s concern be taken into consideration when you decide from which areas to pull your troops? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I will let Jonas address your first question because that is a matter for Norway to respond to.
On the second question, I can assure you there will be intensive consultations at all levels, bilaterally and through NATO ISAF, as the withdrawal occurs. We have been not only grateful for, but very impressed by the Norwegian presence in Norway, and we are well aware of the sacrifice and commitment that Norway has provided to the coalition efforts in Afghanistan, and there will be a very clear path forward that we will all travel together.
FOREIGN MINISTER STOERE: If I may just on Syria say that I think we are part of that broad and emerging international voice sending clear message to the regime in Damascus. The Secretary and I attended the Human Rights Council in Geneva in early March when Libya was emerging as a real problem. And I think we both used – coined this version that a regime which is turning its army on its people is losing legitimacy to represent that people. That is, to me, a lead-up to expressing a clear view on that leadership. And I think we see a similar process in terms of sending a very strong, normative message, which is follow-up that presidential statements, a number of sanctions.
And I would in particular salute the regional organization’s clear message. We have been missing that, but it is starting to come from Syria’s neighbors and from Syria’s own organizations, and that is of great importance to – building that alliance is part of the work which is needed now.
MS. NULAND: Next question, Kirit Radia, ABC.
QUESTION: Hi. Good morning to you both. Question for the both of you, but particularly for the Secretary, if you don’t mind answering, on the Middle East peace process. Can you tell us how much progress has been made among the Quartet in developing the document that could provide some way forward in hopes of staving off the Palestinian vote at the United Nations in September?
And if I may ask, Madam Secretary, about reports that the talks with the Taliban have collapsed, what can you tell us about that? What – how serious were these efforts and how far did they get, and where do you go from here? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with respect to Middle East peace, Jonas and I had a very good discussion of all the issues concerning the Middle East today. I applaud Norway’s continued leadership and commitment to the peace process and also its chairmanship of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which has been the principal international support for a lot of the work that’s been done on the ground by the Palestinian Authority to improve the lives, the security, the well-being of the Palestinian people.
President Abbas has said on numerous occasions that substantive negotiations are his preferred course, and we take him at his word. That is why we’re working very hard with our Quartet partners to come up with a platform for the resumption of negotiations. And we’re doing so based on President Obama’s May remarks, which very clearly set out parameters for the two major issues that have to be addressed: on the one hand, territory, on the other hand, security.
We have continued to support strongly a two-state solution and the negotiations are absolutely imperative for us to reach that two-state solution. We believe that UN resolutions, no matter what they say, are no substitute for the difficult but necessary give and take that can occur only in a negotiating process. So we are going to oppose that approach and strongly support every effort to resume negotiations.
QUESTION: And on the Taliban talks?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have no comment on that.
FOREIGN MINISTER STOERE: Well, I – I’ll just like to rally my voice to the Secretary. When it comes to a two-state solution, that should come about through negotiations. Norway has been associated with Oslo, and Oslo was all about negotiating the painful way to that two-state solution so they could leave side by side in peace. One should not ignore the steps which have been taken on that road, but a lot still remains to be done. And we as an international community must do whatever we can to support that road.
That being said, we will have to wait and see what the Palestinians will present for September, and it is Norway’s view that we have to view their plans in detail when they are ready to come up with it. We support any initiative from the Quartet that may bring negotiations forward. It is not Norway’s view that it is illegitimate to turn to the UN to get an expression. That has been regular in the Middle East peace process since the creation of a state of Israel.
But no matter how many resolutions you pass, negotiations will be needed to solve the tricky issues. That I understand is also the view of the Palestinian president, who, in my – to my knowledge, has shown every readiness to engage in that negotiation. It takes two to make this, and we will have to work on both sides to make that difficult task possible.
MS. NULAND: And the last question is from Vegard Kvaale of the Dagbladet.
QUESTION: Thank you. Once again, Madam Secretary, thank you for your support after the terrorist attacks. I was just wondering, what do you think of the response from the Norwegian Government and Norwegian people to the attacks? And how has American authorities assisted Norwegian authorities after the attacks? And last, how should the international community deal with these kinds sort of homegrown terrorism threats in the future? Are there, for instance, any lessons that we can take from the Oklahoma bombings in ’95? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I deeply admire the resilience of the Norwegian people, and we saw it once again in the aftermath of this terrible terrorist attack of July 22nd. It is almost hard for me as a mother to imagine. And when Jonas told me about going to funerals, it was a terrible flashback to having gone to Oklahoma City following the attack there, going to funerals and events after 9/11, where it is a – just a terrible human tragedy that you are part of as a member of the human family, and particularly of countries like ours that really cherish our values of openness and believe strongly in the opportunity that exists for people of different backgrounds, different beliefs to live and work together, to compete in the arena of ideas.
And I think though hearts are certainly broken in Norway, the response that we have seen to hatred and to the viciousness of the terrorist’s message that was posted on the internet has been in keeping with the strength of the Norwegian people and the values that you exhibit around the world. And these values of tolerance and solidarity and democracy and openness are the very values that these young people were believing in because they had chosen to become involved in the political process of your country. And it’s a terrible loss for Norway, but it is a loss for all of us as we think about those young lives that were cut short.
So we stand with you now and always. We have offered our continuing support. Members of our law enforcement community have been in touch with counterparts in Norway. And where we’ve been asked to provide information, we’ve been more than willing to do so. We stand ready to offer any assistance that you may require.
This is a reminder that, in our democracies, we have to be balancing liberty and security all the time. That is not an easy balance. We made some changes after Oklahoma City, we made other changes after 9/11, but in our democracy we have to keep balancing those apparently contradictory values, but in my view, you cannot have one without the other. And so how do we define each in ways that maximize the potential for the people of our countries to realize their own dreams and aspirations. So we are looking to deepen our discussion about these challenges going forward.
Thank you all very much.