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Fico meets Obama at White House

SLOVAKIA is ready to help with international efforts to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria, but it will not offer for those weapons to be dismantled on Slovak territory, Prime Minister Robert Fico told the press after his meeting with US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in Washington on November 21.

SLOVAKIA is ready to help with international efforts to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria, but it will not offer for those weapons to be dismantled on Slovak territory, Prime Minister Robert Fico told the press after his meeting with US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in Washington on November 21.

Fico spent more than an hour with Obama and Biden in what Slovak foreign policy analysts called a “great honour” for Slovakia. Fico denied speculation that Syrian weapons will be destroyed on Slovak territory saying that he offered experts to help and “this offer was accepted with great interest”. No country has agreed to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons on its own territory as yet.

“We are 100 percent prepared to go for it. The current question is what we can offer,” Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák said, as quoted by SITA newswire. “We are specifying the offer and discussing with the American side which experts they are interested in.”

Fico along with an entourage that included Lajčák and Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák first met with Biden for more than one hour, with Obama joining in for the end of the meeting. Then, Fico spent approximately 10 minutes alone with Obama discussing issues face to face. The historically first meeting between Obama and Fico took place at the invitation of the US government, according to Sme daily.

“It is the visit which confirmed all our expectations,” Fico told to press. “It has again been confirmed that we are a trustworthy country.”

Besides chemical weapons, Fico spoke with Obama about the US-Slovak partnership, which is “based on shared democratic values and principles”, according to Fico’s spokeswoman Beatrice Szabóová. Biden and Fico discussed the joint efforts of Slovakia and the US in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, including Slovakia’s engagement in Afghanistan beyond 2014, she said.

US and Slovak representatives agreed on the need to support economic growth and the creation of new job opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic by concluding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement between the European Union and the United States. They also discussed current situation in Ukraine, the Balkans and the US National Security Agency (NSA) wiretapping scandal, Fico’s office said.

“The NSA wiretapping scandal seriously harmed the image of United States among Europeans,” Fico said in interview for Pravda daily. “Therefore it is important to quickly organise the EU-USA summit where the most important countries affected by wiretapping, such as Germany, together with the United States will explain what happened and find a model how to get trust [among each other] again.”

The meeting between Obama and Fico is great diplomatic success, Slovak Atlantic Commission Secretary General Róbert Vass told The Slovak Spectator. There are 192 member states of the United Nations and the United States maintains diplomatic relationship with almost all of them, so it is an honour that US president found a time for a leader of such small country, said Ivo Samson, the head of Institute for Defence and Security Studies at Defence Ministry, as quoted by TASR newswire.

The Chairman of Slovak Parliament Foreign Policy Committee František Šebej from Most-Híd party agrees; however, thoughts that this meeting is indicator of Slovak trustworthiness are exaggerated, TASR reported.

“Of course, I am very happy that US President met with the Slovak Prime Minister,” Šebej said, as quoted by TASR. “It is not easy for the head of government to meet US President since it is not possible that every prime minister around the world will have the opportunity to have discussions with him.”

Slovakia will not accept chemical weapons

Obama’s government is trying to find countries willing to take responsibility for destroying chemical weapons from Syria on their own territory. Several Middle Eastern and European countries have already declined, McCain Institute for International Leadership Executive Director Kurt Volker said, as quoted by Pravda daily.

However, even the US had agreed that Syrian chemical weapons will not come to Slovakia as press attaché for the US Embassy in Slovakia, Matthew Miller said, as quoted by Pravda, “it was not a debate about destroying chemical weapons in Slovakia”.

“It [discussion] is about the liquidation of chemical weapons in Syria. Special programmes and preparations are the issue,” Fico said, as quoted by Pravda. “Our experts could be good in those [preparations].”

The Defence Ministry refused to provide further information until Fico meet Defence Minister Martin Glváč and discussed the issue, according to Sme.

Former Defence Minister Ľubomír Galko, from the Freedom and Solidarity party, pointed out that the country’s abilities to liquidate chemical weapons are limited. Slovakia is able to provide tools for decontamination of people, weapons, gear and areas, and could secure the liquidation of just some of the chemical substances and products, Sme reported.

“It is a great offer from Slovakia,” Vass said. “It shows that even a small country can play a great role in global foreign policy if it offers something which is interesting in terms of international security.”

The willingness of Fico’s government to help with the weapons is quite welcome, since destroying Syria’s arsenal is a worldwide priority, said Amy Smithson, a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, according to Pravda.

Talking economic issues

During the discussion about economic issues Fico and Biden agreed that the transatlantic alliance is important because it can increase jobs on both sides of the Atlantic and thus boost economic growth, according to Fico’s office.

In the current situation, when Europe is facing serious economic problems and is losing its competitiveness, signing this agreement could create the biggest trading bloc in the world and set standards for the entire global market, Vass said.

Samson said that the US is still the number one superpower and the EU’s leading trade partner, therefore it is no surprise that economic issues were on the agenda for the meeting.

“The reason for Fico’s trip [to Washington] is obvious. The United States is our important trade partner,” Samoson said, as quoted by TASR. “Slovakia has had long-term negotiations with U.S. Steel and wants to keep US investments [in Slovakia].”

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