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Viewing cable 06REYKJAVIK158, ICELAND DEFENSE: FM HAARDE DEFENDS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06REYKJAVIK158 2006-05-03 17:05 2011-01-13 05:05 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXYZ0008
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRK #0158/01 1231719
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 031719Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2736
INFO RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0215
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
UNCLAS REYKJAVIK 000158 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE, SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: MARR PREL NATO IC
SUBJECT:  ICELAND DEFENSE:  FM HAARDE DEFENDS 
COOPERATION WITH U.S. 
 
REF:  REYKJAVIK 150 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  In a 4/29 parliamentary briefing on 
bilateral defense talks earlier in the week, FM Haarde 
continued to emphasize that the U.S. and Icelandic 
governments are moving forward constructively to 
develop new defense arrangements in preparation for the 
upcoming closure of Naval Air Station Keflavik 
(NASKEF).  PM Asgrimsson's party, the coalition junior 
partner, continued to distance itself from Haarde's 
"loss" of the base, while opposition members variously 
expressed impatience with the government's failure to 
finalize a post-NASKEF defense plan and called on the 
government to hold the U.S. accountable on labor and 
environmental transition issues. 
 
2. (SBU) Summary continued: We expect these themes to 
echo during the run-up to the May 2007 parliamentary 
election.  If by this time next year we have new 
defense and security arrangements in place - and have 
resolved pending base closure legal, financial, and 
technical issues - we expect the defense issue to move 
off center stage.  End summary. 
 
 
 
 
----------------- 
Government Briefs 
----------------- 
3. (U) Icelandic Foreign Minister and Independence 
Party (IP) Chairman Geir Haarde met with the Icelandic 
Parliament's (Althing's) Foreign Affairs Committee 
April 29, following April 26-27 defense negotiations 
with a joint State-DOD team (reftel).  Haarde told his 
parliamentary colleagues: 
 
-- The U.S. and Iceland have not finalized a plan to 
provide for Iceland's defense following closure of 
Naval Air Station Keflavik (NASKEF) at the end of the 
fiscal year, and detailed bilateral discussions will 
continue. The U.S., responsible for Iceland's defense, 
is doing the technical work for the plan. 
 
-- Iceland is not now asking any European country to 
provide for Iceland's defense; Haarde is focusing on 
reaching an agreement with the U.S. and expects that 
the ongoing talks will produce such an agreement. 
(Note: in March and April PM Halldor Asgrimsson, chair 
of the coalition junior partner Progressive Party, 
repeatedly suggested that Iceland look to Western 
Europe for defense guarantee.  End note.) 
 
-- A recent French offer to Minister of Justice Bjorn 
Bjarnason to increase French naval patrols of the North 
Atlantic is positive news but will not substitute for 
ideas being discussed with the U.S. 
 
-- Iceland would seek a common document/declaration to 
be issued at the end of talks that would address the 
include the EUCOM-authored defense plan, the status of 
the 1951 Defense Agreement, cooperation to combat 
nontraditional threats, and police cooperation. 
 
----------------- 
Opposition Snipes 
----------------- 
4. (U) Opposition politicians responded to Haarde's 
briefing with a repetition of themes they have stressed 
since the March 15 announcement that the U.S. would 
realign NASKEF: 
 
-- Main opposition Social Democratic Alliance (SDA): 
MP Thorunn Sveinbjarnardottir expressed impatience with 
the slow pace of defense planning and urged the 
government to collaborate with NATO on replacing U.S. 
assets.  (Note:  Haarde had traveled to Sofia April 27- 
28 for the NATO ministerial, but we are unaware of any 
sign that he used the opportunity to explore Alliance 
alternatives to EUCOM proposals.  End note.)  MP and 
former party chairman Ossur Skarphedinsson used an op- 
ed in the country's largest circulation newspaper, 
Frettabladid, to lambaste Haarde for failing to secure 
continued operation of the IADS radar stations and 
praise Bjarnason for "put(ting) us in the French sphere 
of influence." 
 
-- Left Greens (LG):  MP and Party Chairman Steingrimur 
Sigfusson argued that "instead of sitting and waiting 
for proposals from the United States and trying to hang 
 
on to some kind of minimal, pseudo-defense capability, 
the Icelandic Government should demand of the United 
States military and the U.S. Government that things be 
left in decent condition here, that the pollution they 
have caused be cleaned up, and that they accept their 
responsibilities toward the people who have worked for 
them." 
 
------------------------------------ 
Coalition Partner Keeps its Distance 
------------------------------------ 
5. (U) Asgrimsson's Progressive Party reiterated its 
disappointment in the manner of the U.S. departure.  MP 
Magnus Stefansson, deputy chairman of the Foreign 
Affairs Committee, remarked that the U.S. should 
already have had a follow-on defense plan ready when we 
decided to close the base.  He conceded, however, that 
"the issue is complicated, especially as regards the 
grounds of the base, and it is not surprising that this 
will take time." 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
6. (SBU) Comment: Reactions to the latest round of 
defense talks fall along party lines, where we expect 
them to remain.  Haarde's Independence Party asks 
Icelanders to `stay the course' and trust in the 
government's ability to continue to deliver security. 
Asgrimsson's Progressives seek to distance themselves 
from Haarde's "loss" of the base. The Alliance uses 
defense as a wedge issue to push its goal of EU 
accession.  The Left Greens castigate the U.S. while 
playing populist and, well, green. 
 
7. (SBU) We expect to hear similar themes repeatedly in 
the run-up to the May 2007 parliamentary elections.  If 
by this time next year we have new defense and security 
arrangements in place - and, equally importantly, have 
resolved pending NASKEF transition issues related to 
land return, residual value, NATO property and 
environmental cleanup - we believe the defense issue 
will move off political center stage.  End comment. 
 
KOSNETT