OTTAWA, Canada — President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said their first meeting Thursday was a success that could foster neighborly cooperation on economic and energy issues, while avoiding the thorny topic of troop levels in Afghanistan and Mr. Obama’s one-time tough talk on trade agreements.
In his first foreign trip since becoming president one month ago, Mr. Obama greeted Canadian leaders and held a joint press conference with Mr. Harper, who announced a new climate change partnership.
“I expect that four years from now the U.S.-Canadian relationship will be even stronger than it is today,” Mr. Obama said. “I love this country and think that we could not have a better friend and ally, and so I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that our relationship is strengthened.”
Mr. Harper and Mr. Obama said they could agree to disagree on certain policies while fostering a partnership on climate change studies and keeping the people of North America safe.
Mr. Harper, speaking in both French and English, announced they had agreed to a new “U.S.-Canada clean energy dialogue.”
He said the group commits senior officials from both countries “to collaborate on the development of clean energy science and technologies that will reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change.”
Each took two questions, on trade, the economy, the environment and Afghanistan.
The president, who announced Tuesday he would be sending 17,000 more troops and support to Afghanistan, spoke publicly about the increase for the first time.
“I ordered the additional troops because I felt it was necessary to stabilize the situation there in advance of the elections that are coming up. But we have 60 days of work to do,” Mr. Obama said.
“That review, which will be wide ranging, will then result in a report that’s presented to me. … In terms of length, how long we might be there, obviously that’s going to be contingent on the strategy we develop out of this review. And I’m not prejudging that as well.”
Mr. Obama told reporters that while the two leaders discussed Afghanistan, he “certainly did not press the prime minister on any additional commitments beyond the ones that have already been made.”
“All I did was to compliment Canada on not only the troops that are there, the 108 that have fallen as a consequence of engagement in Afghanistan, but also the fact that Canada’s largest foreign aid recipient is Afghanistan,” he said. “There has been extraordinary effort there. And we just wanted to make sure that we were saying thank you.”
Mr. Harper noted that Parliament recently passed a resolution extending the commitment to Afghanistan through 2011 and said his own view is that there should be an end-date of transitioning responsibility to the Afghan people.
“As we move forward, we anticipate an even greater engagement on economic development. That’s part of the strategy that we adopted,” he said. “The goal of our military engagement — its principal goal right now, beyond day-to-day security is the training of the Afghan army so the Afghans themselves can become responsible for their day-to-day security in that country.”View Entire Story
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