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SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good afternoon, everyone.  It’s a particular pleasure to be able to welcome Foreign Minister Soreide.  Ine, it’s so good to have you here.

We’ve actually spent a fair bit of time together in the last six or seven months – in Brussels, at NATO, on the phone, in constant communication – and it’s really a reflection of the fact that our partnership with Norway is one of the most vital and important that we have.  And we’ve seen that reflected in many places, in many ways around the world, but no more so than just in the last couple of weeks at the airport in Kabul, where Norway led the field hospital that, among other things, took care of those who were wounded in the terrorist attack on the airport – something that we will never forget, along with the partnership that we’ve had for more than 20 years now in Afghanistan and in many other places around the world.

So I’m particularly delighted to have Ine here today to talk about, of course, the way forward together on Afghanistan on a lot of work that we’re doing together but also on a number of other issues that the United States and Norway are working closely on around the world.  And we’ll have the opportunity to compare notes on a lot of those things, including COVID-19, including climate change and various other challenges.

So Ine, welcome.  It’s so good to have you here.

FOREIGN MINISTER SOREIDE:  Thank you so much, Tony.  And thank you so much for inviting me at this very critical juncture.  (Inaudible) is happening in Afghanistan, and also globally on a lot of topics.  And I am very happy that we have this opportunity to meet face to face again.  As you say, we have done that several times already, but we – I think we right now, at where we are now, need to meet physically as well and in person.

I think it is fair to say that what we have experienced together for the past 20 years in Afghanistan has really marked both our nations, and we also need to find a way forward together in Afghanistan and to make sure that we stand up for the needs of the Afghan people as well.  And I know that we will have good discussions on this, as we have on all other topics.  We will also touch upon NATO issues, UN Security Council, and a range of bilateral issues where it is very clear also now that the U.S. is our most important ally, and we also share a lot of interests and values when we work together on foreign and security policy, when we work together on peace and reconciliation.  And we are very happy that our bilateral relationship has also expanded over the years.

So once again, thank you so much for inviting me, and I’m very happy to be discussing these issues with you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Now off to work.


SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you all.

U.S. Department of State

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