Remarks With Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide After Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
March 12, 2013

The video below is available with
closed captioning on YouTube.

SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon. I’m delighted to welcome Foreign Minister Eide to the State Department. It’s a particular pleasure for me because I had the occasion of living in Norway for a couple years when my dad served in the Embassy there. I was reminiscing with the Foreign Minister about some wonderful times in the parks and on the hills and on the fjord there. And I have great memories of Norway.

It’s a pleasure to welcome the Foreign Minister here to Washington. As allies in NATO, Norway and the United States work very closely together to advance peace and security from Afghanistan to Kosovo to Libya and beyond, to Sudan and elsewhere. As fellow Arctic nations, we share stewardship of one of the world’s greatest national treasures, and as democracies with a very shared core set of values, we work hard to advance human rights and dignity wherever we can in the world. And today, the Foreign Minister and I had a very productive discussion on almost every single issue of importance to our countries.

First, let me thank Norway for helping to drive global efforts with respect to peace in the Middle East. We are now celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, and as chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, Norway has been critical to trying to advance that process from day one. So they really played an oversized role in creating that great moment of the handshake here in Washington, and everybody is not without a sense of responsibility for the fact that we are still talking about some of the very same issues.

So Norway has a particular interest in seeing the United States and the Palestinians and the Israelis come together in a legitimate process, and we talked about that.

Second, Norway has contributed roughly $75 million to humanitarian relief in Syria since 2011. And together, Norway and the United States are supporting Syrian refugee efforts, civilians, even as we continue to try to pressure the Assad regime into coming to the negotiating table to have a negotiated transitional government.

Third, we discussed our shared mission in Afghanistan. Norway has been a staunch ally in Afghanistan and has contributed more than generously to the efforts to develop Afghanistan and to try to bring about regional reconciliation. Since 2002, Norway has contributed roughly $1 billion in civilian assistance to help the Afghan people chart their road to the future.

And finally, Norway and the United States have a remarkable shared interest in protecting the Arctic and in developing its resources in a sustainable and a cooperative way. Norway hosts the Arctic Council’s Secretariat in Tromso, which officially opened just a few weeks ago, and we appreciate all of their efforts to try to preserve the High North.

The bottom line is this: Our nations work together from the Arctic to Asia to the Americas. I can’t think of two countries which work in greater combination with greater agreement on more issues of importance to global peace and security than the United States and Norway. When it comes to crosscutting issues like climate change, Norway is a trusted partner of first resort. And so on almost every challenge of conflict in the world today, Norway plays one of the giant outsized roles of any country on this planet. I think it’s safe to say that Norway is one of the great global citizens and we are appreciative for our relationship and for our shared interests, and I thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER EIDE: Thank you very much, Secretary Kerry. Let me first say that I am really pleased to be here so early in your tenure as Secretary of State. It’s also so good for us in Norway to have a Secretary of State who actually lived in Norway and who can even speak quite impressively some Norwegian phrases which he tried out on us, and we were quite impressed by his memory of that. (Laughter.) And I think that also really suggests that we’re going to have a very, very close working relationship as we’ve had also in the past with your predecessors.

SECRETARY KERRY: You’ll notice I didn’t try it out on them. (Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER EIDE: Well, you have a second chance. (Laughter.)

The United States of America is obviously Norway’s most important ally, and we have a very strong partnership in NATO and in security and military defense issues, but the United States is also such an important partner in so many global issues. That means the crosscutting issues, as was mentioned, the climate change and the whole issue of the Arctic, which requires close cooperation of all Arctic states and all the concerned states, the issue of global health. And we work together in the Middle East peace process. We work together on Myanmar. We work together on Sudan and South Sudan. And we very much share the same analysis of the very sad and tragic story that is unfolding in Syria and the need to bring that onwards.

Somebody has said somewhat jokingly – but I think it’s fair to repeat it – that the international community is the group of countries that happen to be interested in any particular issue, and the United States of America, because you’re always there. And hence, we always work with you when we try to engage through peace processes, through other dialogue processes with countries in transition and with countries that need international help. And it’s always good to have a close contact on these issues, and we have reaffirmed that today.

So with those few words, I just want to say again that it’s really good to be here in Washington today.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Espen. Appreciate it.

MS. NULAND: We’ll take four today. Let’s start with Washington Post, Anne Gearan, please.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. Mr. Secretary, the Syrian opposition has put off a meeting to try to form a provisional government because of some internal divisions, and we certainly know all about that because of the divisions that complicated the meeting that you held in Rome last month. What gives you confidence that the Syrian opposition is going to be able to get its act together to be the kind of viable political alternative to Assad that you clearly want them to be?

And for the Foreign Minister, what is Norway’s view of arming the rebels? Would you be willing to go as far as Britain has said that it will do? Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER EIDE: Well, we work closely with the Syrian opposition. We have provided humanitarian aid, and we are also now working and trying to help them to set up local council inside Syria, and more and more assistance is happening on the inside. We have, as of now at least, not been supporting of actively arming the rebels, and I think our position is quite similar to the position of the United States of America. But we are very clear, President Assad has lost all credibility, he must go. We need to work with the Syrian opposition, we need to help them to unify, we need to help them to consolidate messages, and we need to make sure that the Security Council finally is able to come to a kind of joint position in this issue. And I think on these issues we are very much of the same approach.

SECRETARY KERRY: I think, Anne, that it is inevitable and true of every single opposition in any kind of circumstance like this that there are tensions and differences of opinion as they find their footing, and there’s no surprise in that. So we have to work quietly and effectively with the international community. There are lots of people involved and engaged with the Syrian opposition. You could remember a year ago that they were completely un-unified and spoke without one voice.

So we will continue to work with them. I’m not going to vouch on any process over which we don’t have control, but I will tell you that they are adamant, all of them, about what they’re fighting for. And the cause is the cause of the Syrian people. And they have committed themselves to a broad-based government that is going to represent all of the people of Syria, even as there may be some dissension as to tactics or process among them. So you have to have some patience in this process even as you approach it with care. And I think that’s exactly what we’re doing.

We want to stop the killing. And they want to stop the killing. The world wants to stop the killing. And we want to be able to see Assad and the Syrian opposition come to the table for the creation of a transitional government according to the framework that was created in Geneva, the Geneva Protocol, which requires mutual consent on both sides to the formation of that transitional government. That’s what we’re pushing for. And to do that, you have to have President Assad change his calculation so he doesn’t believe he can shoot it out endlessly, but you also need a cooperative Syrian opposition to come to the table, too. We’re working on it, and we will continue to work on it.

MS. NULAND: Our next one, Anders (inaudible) from NRK, please.

QUESTION: Thank you for this opportunity, Mr. Secretary. You’re on your way back to the Middle East, and you have seemingly interest in trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Many countries have tried to do that, Norway included. Norwegian diplomats still keep in touch with Hamas and are leading the international efforts to help the Palestinians financially. Would you like to see Norway in a role to – would you like Norway to engage more, or what should be their role?

And on a more colorful note, how’s your Norwegian? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: (In Norwegian.) Let me come back and just say to you that Norway has played an extraordinary role in the peace process for years. I mentioned the 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accords. And it’s not for the United States to tell Norway or suggest to Norway how much or how little they should fight for peace. They fight for peace always, and we welcome that. What I have shared with my friend the Foreign Minister is that the President is traveling over there next week. I’m privileged to go with him on that journey. And we will have meetings there during which time the President wants to speak to the people of Israel, the Palestinians, the people of the region and not lay down a peace proposal, but express his vision for what the possibilities of the future are and listen to people. We will meet and listen and then make some judgments about what the possibilities are for moving forward.

And I think until that trip has taken place – built on top of the journey that I just ended, during which time I met with leaders all across Europe, Turkey, Egypt, and the Gulf states to ascertain their willingness to proceed forward and in what form and what manner and so forth – until we sort all of that out, it would really be premature to start to be laying out the roadmap, so to speak. So one thing I’ve said to the Foreign Minister and I say here: President Obama is deeply committed to a two-state solution. He is committed to wanting to move forward, and we need to find parties that are ready and willing and want to engage in that effort, and that’s our hope and our prayer for that journey, and we’ll see where we are at the end of it.

FOREIGN MINISTER EIDE: Can I just answer that? It is really important that the President and the Secretary of State is going there now. I think we really want – need now to install some kind of hope for a political horizon for this process. The work that we have been doing for many years now as the chair of the Donors Committee, which consists of the European Union, the U.S., several European countries, several Arab states and Israel and the Palestinian Authority, is to coordinate the economic effort to build the institutions of the Palestinian state.

And we declared already in 2011 that they had reached a level of maturity, which means that the institutions are actually in place that could fulfill the role, given that the political settlement is found. And we will continue to do so, but we also agreed today that this effort is only – only gives meaning as long as there is a political horizon, because the people on the Palestinian side, particularly in the West Bank, who are investing in these institutions, they do so because they believe that at the outcome there will be a two-state solution. And we can’t go on forever. So we really – so 2013 is going to be a very important year in order to reinstall a belief in a negotiated settlement, which is the – actually the only reason that we keep working to build institutions bottom up.

MS. NULAND: Next one. Scott Stearns, VOA, please.

QUESTION: A question for you both, please. Should Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court now that they are respectively the president-elect and vice president-elect of Kenya?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we have to let the process in Kenya finish, frankly. There are some questions about it in the process of their election system. And so I think that judgment has to be made when that process is fully complete.

FOREIGN MINISTER EIDE: And I want to say that first, I want to agree that there are disputes in the – over the Kenyan elections. We are not interfering into that. But we just recommend strongly that those disputes are settled according to the new laws that were set up after the debacle that we had last time around. And so far, this has been a much more peaceful process than five years ago.

Norway was very active when the ICC was set up, and of course we expect anyone – elected or not – to cooperate with the institutions. And we do register that as of now, Ruto, Kenyatta has made clear his readiness to cooperate with the ICC. And of course here, as everywhere else, there’s the presumption of innocence until judged. So as long as he cooperates, that’s important for us.

SECRETARY KERRY: Can I also mention that the Kenyan people really deserve to be congratulated for their participation. It was very high turnout; there was a great deal of effort to try to make sure that the process was followed. People worked very hard in the country, and some people from outside, to encourage a peaceful process. And I know that President Obama urged peacefulness and continues to. And Secretary Carson – Assistant Secretary Carson was deeply involved on the ground with our folks in trying to help to create a climate for peaceful resolution. And that is what we continue to urge in this process. Let the process play out – all of it, court, whatever – and we really want to remain a strong partner of the people of Kenya. That’s, I think, the most important thing here.

MS. NULAND: Last one today. (Inaudible) from TV 2, Norway, please.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you have mentioned results of Norwegian diplomacy in the Middle East. In Syria, do Norway already play a special role in the efforts to end the civil war? Or can Norway play a special role?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’ve never known Norway not to be able to play a special role. So the answer is we all have great confidence in Norway’s ability to work for peace, and as I mentioned to the Minister when I was in Sudan at a dinner there as we were working on the process of the CPA and the Sudan referendum – South Sudan – the birth of South Sudan – the Norwegian Minister was there, the oil minister was there, they were giving extraordinary advice about how to work the oil arrangements. And I’m told, just now even, there’s an agreement to reaffirm the way in which that could go forward. So that’s an example of Norway’s role.

Norway’s leadership on Syria has been to help – its work with the UN has helped to be able to reach the refugees. A very significant $75 million has been put in there in order to help deal with the refugee situation. And I think everyone would agree that when Norway addresses this kind of an issue, it does so with a special foundation of credibility. So the answer is: We will continue to work with Norway and other countries.

I think everybody would agree – and we did agree in our discussion – the refugee situation in Syria – as a result of Syria, is having a profound impact on Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. And that is beginning to become one of the crushing components of this crisis, that without regard to the safety of his own people, President Assad is shelling them into refugee status and forcing his own citizens to flee their country. And that is part of the humanitarian challenge here, part of the humanitarian disaster.

So it is really underscoring, and we are proud to stand with Norway in our response to that refugee crisis.

FOREIGN MINISTER EIDE: I just want to say that in the case of Syria, what is most important now is that the international community, and particularly the Security Council, aligns itself and comes out with a clear message on how to move forward towards a political process, which would – must include the end of the Assad regime, a kind of controlled end, and we should all support that. We can all play our roles in the humanitarian side. We support the opposition. We try to work with local council of the opposition. But this is really an area where more than sort of special roles, we need to have a collective effort and that whatever we do is well aligned with an overarching mission.

And since Sudan and South Sudan was mentioned, I do think we should really underline the fact that it’s really good news that, after a lot of work, an agreement has been found today about reopening the oil exports from South Sudan through pipelines in Sudan. And this is an area where the U.S., Norway, and the U.K. has been working very closely together for many years.

MS. NULAND: Thank you all very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Can I – just as I end, I just – I don’t want any pretense here folks. The phrase that I learned best of all was Jeg snakker ikke norsk – (laughter) – which means, “I don’t speak Norwegian.”

FOREIGN MINISTER EIDE: In fluent Norwegian, right? All right. Okay. Thank you.


PRN: 2013/0275