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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2403

Sweden’s Foreign (Ethnic) Minister Carl Bildt renews old ties with Hillary Clinton

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune – A News Review

Washington, D.C. 09 May (Asiantribune.com): When Sweden’s  Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt with US Secretary of State Clinton Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt with US Secretary of State ClintonForeign Minister Carl Bildt met U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on May 5, it was the renewal of old contact between the two: Bildt was prime minister of Sweden when Bill Clinton was president, and thereafter Bildt and President Clinton were deeply involved in ethnic issues in the Balkan region and nation building in that part of the world. The cordial relationship that existed between the Clintons and Bildt hold steady this time as Hillary and Carl handle foreign affairs in their respective nations.

Today the European Union is an important foreign policy plank of the Obama administration as it was during Clinton and Bush presidencies. And, Secretary of State Clinton will find it more comfortable dealing with the EU as Sweden is scheduled to head the EU for six months from July this year.

Bildt during his visit to Washington had a series of meetings with the Obama administration.

Clinton received her Swedish counterpart in the State Department to discuss Sweden’s coming European Union Presidency, climate issues, environmental negotiations as well as other political questions such as the situation in the Middle East, Iran, Russia and ‘other areas.’

The Swedish foreign minister also had discussions with Secretary of defense Robert Gates, Obama administration’s special envoy to Iraq and Afghanistan Richard Holbrook, National Security Advisor James Johns, Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Senator John Kerry and several others.

The Asian Tribune was made to understand that ‘other areas’ included elections in India and humanitarian situation and counter-terrorism offensive in Sri Lanka.

The Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt last week has had to cancel the trip he had planned to Sri Lanka along with his British and French counterparts after the government in Colombo said it would not receive him. Writing on his blog, Bildt said Sri Lanka had "not given any reason" for not accepting him. "No one seems to understand the reason for this very strange action. Everyone just shakes their heads."

Bildt maintains a personal ‘Blog’ in Sweden which is the most widely read one. Often it is driven into serious controversies that involve foreign nations.

He, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had planned to visit Sri Lanka in a bid to secure safety for civilians caught between government and rebel LTTE forces.

Miliband and Kouchner went on with their mission, while Bildt said he would take part in talks between the European Union and Russia in Luxembourg.

"To cancel the whole trip would not have not been responsible due to the serious humanitarian and political situation in Sri Lanka," Bildt said.

When Sweden takes over the Presidency of the European Union Sri Lanka will not have any option but dealing with that country whose foreign minister was barred from entering. And, Hillary Clinton who has already taken a somewhat tough stand on Sri Lanka in relation to the humanitarian situation will have a strengthened relationship with Sweden because of her personal close relationship and contact with Carl Bildt.

Carl Bildt is more than a foreign minister to his country. Most of his political career he has been involved in ethnic problems in the Balkan region, nation building in that region with the United States and humanitarian issues. Engrossed in those issues primarily the Minister of Foreign (Ethnic) Affairs is a more suitable title for him. It was this background that Bildt elected to join French and British foreign ministers to visit Sri Lanka.

The Asian Tribune wonders if Sri Lanka made the correct decision in preventing him from entering the country at this time when Carl Bildt has been in middle of many controversies in the past.

In 1995, Croatia declared Carl Bildt a persona non grata announcing that he had "lost the credibility necessary for the role of a peace mediator". Bildt had suggested that the President of Croatia, Franjo Tu?man was as guilty of war crimes as the Krajina Serb leader, Milan Marti?.

In June 2007, a preliminary investigation was started against Bildt for him not having deleted racist comments against Palestinians in his blog. One commentator had called Palestinians "devil's offspring" and "lesser standing than cockroaches" and another had written "give us 24 hours and all Palestinians are gone and we have 100 percent of Israel” Subsequently, no grounds were found for suspicions against Bildt in these regards.

Following his statements during the South Ossetian War, where he compared the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin to Hitler's Nazi Germany, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that Bildt is no longer considered welcome in Moscow. Bildt also labeled Russia, Belarus, Cuba, Syria, and Venezuela as "miserable" countries.

On April 8, 2008, during his visit in Israel and Palestinian Authority, Bildt gave an interview to Swedish state radio, in the course of which he compared former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Hamas and proposed "to make peace without both". Israeli officials condemned the comparison.

Greeting Carl Bildt at the State Department last week Secretary of State Clinton said: "Pleasure to welcome the foreign minister of Sweden, who has been at the forefront of politics, both in Sweden and globally, for so many years. It’s a delight to have him. We have a great relationship with Sweden. We have had so many important issues that we have tackled together. Sweden will assume the presidency of the European Union, which will give an even greater emphasis to the leadership that Sweden shows on so many global concerns."

In reply the Swedish foreign minister said: "We have a spectacularly good bilateral relationship. But we also have, I think, one of the, or probably the most fruitful transatlantic relationship that I think we’ve had in living memory of an open and very constructive dialogue on what is, by all standards, an extremely challenging mutual agenda, where we need to move together on a lot of these issues. We’ve had x-numbers of meetings. There will be more. And as said, Sweden will be assuming the presidency of the European Union in the second half of this year, and the further strengthening of transatlantic cooperation, partnership, and dialogue on all sorts of issues will be very high up on our agenda."

Carl Bildt, 60, was Prime Minister of Sweden from 1991 through 1994, and after his term as Prime Minister, Bildt was active as a mediator in the Balkans conflict, serving as the European Union Special Envoy to Former Yugoslavia from June 1995, Co-Chairman of the Dayton Peace Conference (during Bill Clinton presidency) in November 1995, and High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina from December 1995 to June 1997 immediately after the Bosnian War. From 1999 to 2001, he served as the United Nations Secretary General's Special Envoy for the Balkans. He became Sweden’s foreign minister in October 2006.

In 1995, Croatia declared Carl Bildt a persona non grata announcing that he had "lost the credibility necessary for the role of a peace mediator". Bildt had suggested that the President of Croatia, Franjo Tu?man was as guilty of war crimes as the Krajina Serb leader, Milan Marti?.

In the official Swedish Foreign Ministry web site the following statement is prominently displayed:

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." These are the opening words of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For the Swedish Government, the task of strengthening human rights and respect for them has high priority. It is a task we pursue both in our political endeavours in Sweden and in our foreign policy. Human rights issues pervade most of our policy areas”.

- Asian Tribune -

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