In Sweden, Obama Stresses Common Ties, Need for Action in Syria

President Obama, left, with Sweden's prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, in Stockholm September 4. Obama’s visit is the first bilateral visit of an American president to Sweden.
President Obama, left, with Sweden’s prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, in Stockholm September 4. Obama’s visit is the first bilateral visit of an American president to Sweden.

By Jane Morse
IIP Staff Writer
Washington,
September 4, 2013

During the first bilateral visit of a U.S. president to Sweden, President Obama emphasized the partnerships between the two democracies on clean energy and climate change, as well as the need for the international community to end the “barbarism” in Syria.

“We share a belief in the dignity and equality of every human being,” Obama said during a September 4 joint press briefing in Stockholm with Sweden’s prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt.

Speaking of the chemical weapons attacks the United States is convinced the Syrian government has launched against its opponents, Obama said: “The prime minister and I are in agreement that in the face of such barbarism, the international community cannot be silent and that failing to respond to this attack would only increase the risk of more attacks and [the] possibility that other countries would use these weapons as well.”

The Obama administration has advocated military strikes as a response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. The White House is currently working to secure congressional backing to take action and build international support to hold the Assad regime accountable.

The question the world faces, Obama said, is “at what point do we say we need to confront actions that are violating our common humanity? And I would argue that when I see 400 children subjected to gas, over 1,400 innocent civilians dying senselessly in an environment in which you already have tens of thousands dying, and we have the opportunity to take some action that is meaningful, even if it doesn’t solve the entire problem, may at least mitigate this particular problem, then the moral thing to do is not to stand by and do nothing.”

Obama said he and Reinfeldt have discussed their “broader strategy” in dealing with Syria.

“The United States and Sweden are both major donors of humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people,” Obama said. “We will continue those efforts. We’re going to continue to try to strengthen the capabilities of an inclusive and representative opposition and to support the diplomacy that could bring an end to all the violence and advance a political transition and a future in Syria where all people’s rights are upheld.

“Those are goals that we share, and we will keep working towards those goals,” Obama said.