Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones airs hopes for Barack Obama community event during the Newport Nato summit
WALES’ first minister says he is hoping that US president Barack Obama will take part in a community event when the Newport Nato summit comes to the city this September.
Carwyn Jones spoke to journalists after he greeted foreign ministers and dignitaries, including US secretary of state John Kerry, at a special event held in Brussels on Tuesday night.
Foreign policy ministers of the 28-nation Nato military bloc are gathering in Brussels to work on proposals to be put before world leaders including Barack Obama at the Celtic Manor Resort summit.
The meeting began Tuesday evening with a working dinner at the UK’s diplomatic residence in Brussels where the 28 politicians were treated to a menu of Welsh produce, including sparkling wine from Ancre Hill Estates of Monmouth.
Speaking to the Argus Mr Jones said the Welsh Government has “put out feelers” about so-called outreach events for world leaders.
“We would like to see, for example, the US president be able to attend a community event as he did in Northern Ireland. Of course much of that depends what the events at the time in the world actually are,” he said.
He added: “We would like to see heads of government be in a position where they are able to attend, even if it for a short time, an event in local communites, make a visit, so people are able to play a full part in the summit itself as far as they can.”
Mr Jones said the Welsh Government is itself looking to organise events around the main summit, although he said as the summit is “not yet set in stone” that hasn’t been nailed down.
He talked about a possible investment conference in November to build on the summit’s publicity, and that the prime minister David Cameron has indicated he’d be willing to speak there.
The September event is being branded as the Nato Wales summit – and is not named after its host city as was the case in Chicago in 2012.
Mr Jones said the summit had to be used “as a way of selling Wales around the world, but of course we will also be making the point that people are in Newport.”
The first minister explained that Wales was starting off from the basis that it wasn't as well known as Scotland. "We have more work to do to catch up with the publicity that they’ve enjoyed for hundreds of years,” he said.
Mr Jones said there will be inconvenience caused by the summit but said it wouldn’t involve “wholesale road closures for hours at a time”
“There will be some instances where heads of state maybe moving and there will be some road closures, but we expect that to be for minutes at a time,” he said.
Asked if there was any way for the Welsh Government to help local authorities organise their own events around the summit, the first minister said that was a matter for councils.
The Argus previously reported that Newport council asked the Welsh Government if any funding would be available for events – it was told there wasn’t.
Mr Jones said that organising events, for journalists as an example, wasn't as easy as it sounds: “There are certain times that you are not going to get journalists there because they are looking to file copy.”
“What we’re looking at the moment is an event at the beginning of the summit and then looking to build on that after the summit,” he said on the topic of journalists, adding: “At the moment it’s a question of whether it’s possible given their timescales.”
Of the reception itself, held at the UK diplomatic residence in Brussels, Mr Jones said the aim was to “remind foreign ministers that they are coming to Wales in September, to assure them of a warm welcome and to assure that all that is being done organisationally is being done.”
The first minister spoke during the reception alongside Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen and UK foreign secretary William Hague, who said he was looking forward to the summit with “particular anticipation... because it takes place in Wales, a remarkable part of the United Kingdom that is uniquely rich in culture, history, landscape, industry and innovation that has had an influence on World affairs out of proportion to its size.”
Monmouth sparkling wine from Ancre Hill Estates was among the drinks on offer to attendees, as was Tomos Watkins beer and Orchard Gold cider.
At the dinner foreign ministers were treated to Carmarthenshire smoked salmon, herb crusted fillet of salt marsh lamb with Pembrokeshire potatoes and baked leek flan, Llaeth y llan pana cotta with fresh berries, regional cheese and chutneys, Welsh Hills oatcakes, as well as Bara Brith and Welsh cakes.
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