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Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis' Meeting with Norway Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide

MINISTER INE ERIKSEN SØREIDE:  Good afternoon everyone and thank you Defense Secretary Mattis -- Jim, for taking the time to visit Norway.  It is a great honor to invite you and to welcome you here to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The relationship between our two countries is very strong and it also has deep roots.  We have millions of Americans priding themselves in saying that they are Norwegian American.  And our Norwegian Constitution was also inspired by American ideals.

The U.S. remains our most important ally and that goes in many aspects.  And as I said to the ambassador when he had his Fourth of July gathering and garden party, that our relationship and our bond also go beyond politics.  It's something deeper and it's very deeply rooted.

We just came from Brussels and we had some very good discussions speaking about what unites us and those shared -- those lasting values -- democracy, individual liberty, the rule of law.  And we spoke of how we through this allied unity can make our countries and our citizens safe.  And we spoke about how we can strengthen our future cooperation in NATO through also better burden-sharing.

And the values that we talk about is, as some of you have heard me say before, those values are the bond that makes us in the ultimate situation risk our soldiers' lives to defend on each other.  That's a strong bond.  And we have now discussed in NATO also a new command structure, a new maritime culture and those are very important deliverables for this summit.

As we discussed in the car, we think it's maybe the best deliverables for a summit in 25 or more years and we have to think long and hard to find a summit that had delivered better.

And in today's security environment we need to make sure that we further strengthen the bonds between Europe and the U.S. and I think that Jim coming here is a very good testament to that.

But when we talk about this allied unity.  When we talk about NATO as a strong alliance, this is about engaging in each other's security.  We very often have a discussion of Europeans needing to do more for our own security, but this is about us doing something for our common security.  

So as important as our responsibility to step up our spending and our own security issues is also that we have the common perspective.  Our security is intertwined, and the core point is that all of us on both sides of the Atlantic -- we take on obligations that go beyond our own national interests -- that's the point of our talk.

We have had some good discussions over lunch and we are now continuing our discussions here.  I do think that we have to go back quite some time before we see that many American visits to Norway as we've seen over the past years and we are very grateful for the interest that all of you are taking in coming to Norway talking discussing and also seeing a lot of interesting things.

I would like to thank you personally, Jim, for our excellent working relations.  I've had the honor and privilege of working alongside you now for a year and a half or so in different decisions and I really do appreciate strongly your professionalism but also your friendship and I'm very glad to be able to welcome you here.  You are really a star in NATO and you are one that is listened to always when it comes to assessments, evaluations, and also discussions on how to make the alliance stronger and how to take it further.  So again, thank you so much for coming.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS:  Thank you, Madame Minister, and I know I made a commitment to you a long time ago that I would get to Norway and my only regret is it's taken me so long to fulfill that commitment.

We were all sad to see you leave your minister of defense position down in Brussels, but we were cheering too, knowing what you were going to take on as a responsibility.  It's been an absolute delight to serve alongside you.  

And I would also tell you that I'm here to pay my respects and I can't come here today and not make some recognition of a giant of world peace who passed away -- our Secretary General's father who (inaudible) and I would just tell you he has a wonderful reputation -- international reputation.  And as a reminder of our shared values actually.  And if you look at his life, there is an ocean that actually binds in this case Norway and the United States -- and that ocean does bind us. 

But it's also that bond between us is bolstered by the very values that the minister noted and the shared values that I would also just say shared and vital interests across the North Atlantic transatlantic community from Canada to the United States to Europe.  And our closeness is illustrated by those democratic ideals that are espoused in both of our constitutions.  The words resonate back and forth.

I think too that for seafaring people in North America and in Norway the Atlantic has served more as a bridge connecting us, not an obstacle dividing us.  And even a new one of the deliverables of the latest summer it confirms that with the new headquarters that we're putting in in order to take charge of the Atlantic and keep the transatlantic bond real in nautical terms, not just in words, again.  This was a summit full of deliverables.  

That bond is strengthened by those -- I think it's almost five million Americans now who claim Norwegian ancestry and they're very proud of it, I might add.  In one of the valleys in my home state of Washington they still speak Norwegian up there and they're quite proud to hold out against the English-speaking.

But I would just tell you too that Norway's recommitment to the 2 percent of GDP, the Wales Pledge, was also one of the things that we all saluted down there this week that make it a successful summit.  And I think the way to describe it in more human terms is that we're stronger today than we were a month ago or a year ago because of the deliverables they came out of that summit and we are going to be even stronger in the future because in many cases those deliverables actually increase our readiness and that puts our diplomats -- we count you among them now, Madame Minister -- that puts our diplomats in the strongest position to keep stability, to keep the peace, to enhance prosperity across the transatlantic area.

And in particular I think Norway's leadership in the Nordic region and especially up in the Arctic where you serve as NATO's Sentinel, you more than pay off for the size of your military, the size of your country's population.  You are definitely contributing beyond your weight class.

You generously contribute to global stability to increase support of NATO's Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan and your nation's commitments to peacekeeping development are commendable because as we all know you're a standard-bearer for the international responsibilities of peacekeeping, of development funding -- all those kinds of things that ultimately, we stand for.

And also greatly appreciate Norway's flexibility in hosting up to 700 Marines on a rotational basis, and thanks to your efforts more Marines will visit Norway for rigorous cold-weather training.  We've always benefited from our close relationship and we have an almost assured mil-to-mil relationship ensured by the human beings who spend time in each other's countries.

So, Madame Minister, thank you for hosting me here today.  Norway is every bit as beautiful in the summer as you promised it would be -- I'm just one year late in seeing it.  And certainly much more beautiful than your visit in January to Washington D.C.  So, you're welcome back now in the better season.  I look forward to discussing ways to strengthen our relationship even more in the days ahead.

Thank you very much.