SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. It’s a great pleasure for me to welcome my friend and collaborator, a partner in so many efforts on some of the challenges that we face, the Foreign Minister of Norway Borge Brende. Borge has been very much involved with us in any number of initiatives. He’s a strong NATO partner, a strong ally. Norway has been one of the leaders in standing up for democracy in Ukraine, standing up for the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Norway also is one of the leading countries helping the challenges – meet the challenges of Syria. We’ve had Norway’s great help in removing chemical weapons. With the movement today, providing it took place from Homs, we are over 90 percent now of all the chemical weapons being removed. So already, it’s a very significant effort, and I’m grateful for Norway’s help in it. In addition, Norway has been particularly helpful in meeting the challenge of refugees – some 2.7 million registered refugees now, and over six million people displaced within the country. It is the largest displacement of a population of any nation on the planet, and a very serious humanitarian challenge for all of us.
And also, we are working closely on other issues – climate change, the environment. I hope Norway is going to be a key participant with us in the oceans conference that we will be holding here in June.
So altogether, we couldn’t have, honestly, a better partnership. And for me, it’s very special because I once lived in Norway, my father worked there. I have a special affection for Norway and for Norwegians, and I’m very, very happy to welcome Borge here today.
FOREIGN MINISTER BRENDE: Thank you, John. Thank you, Secretary Kerry, for those very warm, welcoming remarks. America, under your leadership and President Obama, is definitely Norway’s closest ally. We have a common border with Russia. As the Secretary notes, we are very clear, as the U.S. and the rest of NATO is, on the importance of respecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russia has accepted the borders of Ukraine very clearly. Back in Budapest in 1994, Ukraine gave all its nuclear weapons to Russia, and the borders have to be respected. There is no alternative. And the elections the 25th of May should go forward, so Ukraine will have then a permanent political leadership to take the country forward.
We will also continue to collaborate under Secretary Kerry’s leadership on bringing the chemical weapons out of Syria, making sure that those weapons never can be used against the civilians of Syria again. I’m happy that we’re now close to 90 percent.
Also, thank you for your personal courage and leadership in the Middle East, on Israel and the Palestinian situation – very difficult these days, but sometimes we really can show leadership when times are difficult. And there is no alternative to finding a permanent solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So we will also support your work on the private sector in Palestine.
Also, our work in South Sudan is now in the top of our agenda and the troika work there. The UN Security Council will hopefully make clear statements on this, because it’s unacceptable what we’re seeing of the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding. So thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well said. I forgot – I’ll be there next week, as a matter of fact.
FOREIGN MINISTER BRENDE: Me too. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY KERRY: So we’ll talk about it. (Laughter.) See?
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is there a way to get past this impasse in the Middle East peace talks? Do you see a way forward?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, there’s always a way forward, but leaders have to make the compromises necessary to do that. We may see a way forward, but if they’re not willing to make the compromises necessary, it becomes very elusive. We will never give up our hope or our commitment for the possibilities of peace. We believe it is the only way to go. But right now, obviously, it’s at a very difficult point. And the leaders themselves have to make decisions. It’s up to them. Thank you.