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SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  Before I speak to the important meeting we’re about to have with Foreign Minister Huitfeldt, let just say a few words, if I can, about a very important diplomatic achievement that was reached today.  After months of mediation by the United States, the governments of Israel and Lebanon reached an agreement to establish a permanent maritime boundary between them.  This opens up the prospect for the peaceful development of very significant energy fields.  It will bring new energy to market not only for both countries, but quite literally around the world.

President Biden spoke to Prime Minister Lapid and President Aoun today to congratulate them on reaching this agreement, and I also want to say a special thanks to our allies and partners in France who were critical to getting there, as well as to our own Special Envoy Amos Hochstein for tireless work in bringing this agreement to fruition.

Of course, it’s critical now that both countries move ahead with its implementation, and we’ll be looking to that, supporting that in the weeks and months ahead.  But this is a significant development.  It is good for Israel’s security.  It’s good for Israel’s prosperity.  It’s good for Lebanon’s security and its prosperity.  It’s going to benefit the region and, ultimately, benefit the entire world with very significant new energy sources coming to market in the years ahead.  And it really advances President Biden’s vision of a region that is peaceful, integrated, and prosperous.

Having said that, I’m really delighted to be with my friend Anniken, the foreign minister.  Norway – Norway has been a staunch ally of the United States, of course in NATO for many years, but we have been standing shoulder to shoulder when it comes to dealing with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine these past months.  Norway’s been a strong supporter of Ukraine.  It stood strongly to impose costs on Russia for the aggression against Ukraine.  And of course, we’re working very closely together in a series of international organizations, including the UN at the Security Council, the Human Rights Council, and other places.

And Norway is now the leading supplier of natural gas to Europe, playing an absolutely vital role in helping Europe move off of its dependence on Russian energy.

So I’m grateful to have my friend here today.  We have a lot more to talk about, but of course the Russian aggression is front and center.

Anniken, welcome.

FOREIGN MINISTER HUITFELDT:  Thank you so much for having me, Tony.  United States is Norway’s most important ally.  We do have a land border to three countries, and that’s Finland, Sweden, and Russia.  And in the present situation, we feel so, so much more secure and also strong by having Finland and Sweden, together with you, within NATO.  So we really appreciate what you have done to Ukraine and we’ll be able to discuss what we are going to do in the future in order to support Ukraine.

I would also like to commend you for the role you had been playing in this agreement between Lebanon and Israel, and we’ll be able to also discuss the situation broader in the Middle East during our meetings today.  So thank you for having me, Tony.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Great to have you.  Thank you.  Thanks, everyone.

U.S. Department of State

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