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Viewing cable 06REYKJAVIK98, ICELAND: JUSTICE MINISTER FRUSTRATED -- AND

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06REYKJAVIK98 2006-03-22 16:04 2011-01-13 05:05 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRK #0098 0811601
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 221601Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2647
INFO RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN PRIORITY 0295
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0105
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 0222
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0021
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0192
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L REYKJAVIK 000098 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
OSLO FOR DATT 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/21/2016 
TAGS: MARR PREL MASS IC
SUBJECT: ICELAND:  JUSTICE MINISTER FRUSTRATED -- AND 
LOOKING FOR HELP ON SAR CAPABILITY 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR CAROL VAN VOORST, REASONS 1.4 (B & D). 
 
1. (C) Summary:  The Ambassador met with the Icelandic 
Justice Minister 3/22 as part of post's roll-out of the U.S. 
decision to remove fighter aircraft and CSAR helicopters from 
Naval Air Station Keflavik (NASKEF).  The Minister expressed 
deep disappointment at the "unilateral" decision and listed 
other Allied countries he calculated might fill U.S. shoes. 
He did not, however, rule out continued defense cooperation 
with the U.S. and urged that the U.S. team bring detailed 
offers to the negotiating table.  As the minister responsible 
for the Coast Guard, he was especially focused on the need to 
avoid any drop in SAR capabilities when the U.S. helicopters 
leave.  End summary. 
 
2. (C) The Ambassador, with poloff as notetaker, called on 
Icelandic Minister of Justice and Ecclesiastical Affairs 
Bjorn Bjarnason March 22 to discuss the U.S. announcement 
March 15 that we would remove by the end of the fiscal year 
the four F-15 jets and the five combat search-and-rescue 
(CSAR) helicopters now stationed there. 
 
-------------- 
Shock and Thaw 
-------------- 
3. (C) The Ambassador asked Bjarnason his views on necessary 
next steps to continue cooperation in the security and safety 
areas that fall under his responsibilities.  Bjarnason 
questioned U.S. dependability as a guarantor of Iceland's 
security and expressed deep disappointment with the U.S. 
decision. 
 
4. (C) The Ambassador reviewed the several years of U.S. 
efforts to prepare the Icelanders for the departure of the 
aircraft and summarized "feverish" preparations now underway 
in Washington to come to Reykjavik in a few days with clear 
proposals on how we can provide Iceland with a visible and 
credible defense.  In response, Bjarnason pulled out a 2004 
memorandum that his ministry had prepared regarding 
"co-operation, exchange of information and mutual assistance 
between Iceland and USA" and conceded that he was still 
interested in working together with us in all these areas, 
viz., civil defense, WMD issues, border control and organized 
crime, training of the Icelandic Special Police (SWAT) Force, 
and search and rescue.  The last was his greatest concern, he 
said, and replacing the U.S. CSAR helicopters would be his 
highest priority over the next several weeks.  The Icelandic 
government had been planning and budgeting to take over the 
SAR function in FY08; the advanced timetable left it with a 
looming critical gap in capabilities. 
 
5. (C) Bjarnason emphasized that Iceland has "more cards to 
play than the bilateral one."  He noted Foreign Minister Geir 
Haarde's recent contacts with the Norwegians, British, and 
French, as well as Danish interest in possibly formalizing 
North Atlantic SAR cooperation.  He said, however, he had 
already been approached by Sikorsky, which expressed interest 
in selling helicopters to Iceland, and expected to hear from 
other vendors as well.  Queried by the Ambassador, he 
confirmed Iceland was also looking into the option of 
contracting with a private firm for temporary SAR services. 
 
6. (C) Comment:  Bjarnason's father was Foreign Minister when 
Iceland signed the 1951 Defense Agreement, and Bjarnason has 
been a decades-long supporter and defender of bilateral 
defense cooperation.  The key take-away message from this 
meeting is that Iceland is eager to see what we can put on 
the table at the upcoming bilateral discussion and that, as 
Haarde told U/S Burns, the search and rescue issue is of 
critical and immediate concern to the Icelandic government. 
End comment. 
van Voorst