As we will be ringing in the New Year in a few days, I thought I would share with you an important accomplishment that Norway and the U.S. have made in the waning days of 2015.
One important objective of Norway’s foreign policy is to try to make a difference. This is why we pursue active diplomacy in many corners of the world. We look for opportunities and for partners – often in critical times – with whom we can play a constructive role. This determination to make a difference together with effect decision-making processes enables us to act swiftly. Even during the holiday season, this important objective remains at the forefront of our international efforts.
Over the last couple of weeks, my government and the embassy have been working very closely with the U.S. government to provide assistance for the implementation of the so-called “Iran Deal” (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPOA). The political leadership in the U.S. and their dedicated team has impressed me throughout this process.
Norway played a key role, as all of Iran’s nuclear material enriched to 20% was successfully removed from Iran yesterday (Monday, Dec. 28). Secretary of State John Kerry said in his statement, “This removal of all this enriched material out of Iran is a significant step toward Iran meeting its commitment to have no more than 300 kg of low-enriched uranium by Implementation Day.” The Secretary also acknowledged Norway’s efforts in this regard and said that “the collaboration between the U.S. and Norway in this endeavor continues a long history of cooperation on non-proliferation of nuclear material.”
In a press release issued today, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende was quoted as saying, “The agreement on Iran’s nuclear program is historic, and it is crucial that it is implemented in a credible way. Norway has therefore helped to ensure that Iran’s excess enriched uranium is replaced by natural uranium, so that the commitments in the agreement can be met.”
So what did Norway actually do?
Norway had experts from the Norwegian Radiation Authority present in Teheran and Astana. As Iran shipped out the enriched uranium, Norway contributed by financing the 60 tons of natural uranium from Kazakhstan that would be substituted for it. Experts from the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority participated in verifying and transporting the uranium. Not an easy task! The team of experts did this in the middle of the Christmas holiday, far away from their families and loved ones – and of course their favorite traditional Norwegian food (about which, by the way, the U.S. embassy in Oslo made a hilariously funny video! A must see!).
Norwegian diplomats in Teheran, Astana, Vienna, Oslo and Washington, D.C. also made significant contributions, working 24/7 through the holiday. They reached out to several different governments to obtain landing permits and authorizations to do flyovers, and made sure that the correct equipment to verify the material was made available. In addition, the embassy in D.C. stayed in regular contact with our U.S. friends and colleagues.
Julehøytiden (or the Christmas season, as it’s called in English) is a very important time for most Norwegians, so we are grateful for their willingness to take on this important task. Perhaps the greatest contribution to the case was made by a good friend and colleague of mine at the State Department, who managed to coordinate this important task while supporting his wife as she gave birth to their second son on Christmas Day. Multitasking in the name of diplomacy!
What we achieved over Christmas plays a significant role in creating and ensuring international peace and security. It is also a contribution to the ongoing work in stabilizing the Middle East.
I am so proud to have been part of the team that achieved this outcome and once again thankful for the close partnership with friends and colleagues here in the United States.