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Viewing cable 07REYKJAVIK192, Icelandic PM, FM Host U/S Burns for First Bilat "Security

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07REYKJAVIK192 2007-07-03 08:08 2011-01-13 05:05 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXRO1890
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHRK #0192/01 1840802
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 030802Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3355
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0019
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 REYKJAVIK 000192 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR P, EUR/NB, OES (J FIELD) 
OSD FOR HURSCH 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/01/2017 
TAGS: PREL NATO SENV ENRG IC
SUBJECT: Icelandic PM, FM Host U/S Burns for First Bilat "Security 
Dialogue" 
 
Classified By: Amb. Carol van Voorst for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  Under Secretary Burns' visit to Iceland on June 14 
reiterated the U.S. commitment to Iceland's security and laid the 
groundwork for new areas of cooperation, particularly in energy 
security and scientific research.  New Foreign Minister Ingibjorg 
Solrun Gisladottir carried herself well, demonstrating she is quickly 
getting into her brief.  On global affairs, attention centered on 
developments in Iraq -- past and present -- and Afghanistan, with 
considerable time devoted to the Middle East peace process and the 
question of legitimizing Hamas.  In private and in public, the 
message came through that the U.S. remains Iceland's close friend and 
ally.  A lively roundtable with key opinion makers received lengthy 
favorable coverage in all major news outlets.  In the same vein, U/S 
Burns' interview on Iceland's most popular television news show 
generated ample positive buzz, with some observers terming it the 
best interview of a foreign official in recent memory.  End Summary. 
 
U.S.-ICELAND DEFENSE TIES 
------------------------- 
2.  (SBU) In separate meetings, and again over a joint PM-MFA working 
lunch to review the strategic environment, PM Haarde and FM 
Gisladottir noted that Iceland continued to look to the 1951 
U.S.-Iceland Defense Agreement as the cornerstone of Iceland's 
defense.  At the same time, Iceland continues to expand and deepen 
its defense ties with other NATO allies in the North Atlantic, as in 
the case of recent defense MOUs signed with Norway and Denmark.  The 
FM added that similar discussions are underway with the German and 
Canadian governments; PM Haarde will travel to Ottawa in August, and 
a reciprocal visit by Canadian Prime Minister McKay may be in the 
works. 
 
3.  (C) Both the PM and FM pressed for continued progress on issues 
of importance to Iceland in the wake of the departure of permanent 
U.S. forces in September 2006.  On the Iceland Air Defense System 
(IADS), both requested that the USG accelerate progress to ensure 
that the air defense radars and other necessary system components 
could be handed over on August 15 of this year, when U.S. funding 
expires.  Burns noted positively the work led by OSD's Jim Hursch to 
coordinate bilateral work on the IADS issue, and reiterated the U.S. 
commitment to leave Iceland with an adequate air defense system. 
This would dovetail with efforts at the NATO Military Committee to 
approve a plan for peacetime air surveillance and interception 
preparedness (i.e., air policing).  PM Haarde expressed his great 
pleasure at hearing that the U.S. and Icelandic NATO delegations had 
made significant progress on the air policing issue, with a draft 
plan expected to pass silence in the Military Committee on June 22. 
 
4.  (C) FM Gisladottir also asked for U.S. assistance in two areas: 
ensuring the continuity within NATO of the "Island Commander Iceland" 
billet -- which the MFA Defense Department Head clarified as less a 
request for continuing the structure of decades past and more a 
request for a single Iceland Point of Contact within the SHAPE 
structure -- and the possible lending of strategic assessment 
expertise as Iceland works to establish a cross-party institution to 
examine national security issues.  Burns said the U.S. could assist 
Iceland on both of these points. 
 
AFGHANISTAN 
----------- 
5.  (C) PM Haarde said Iceland's most significant involvement in 
stabilization and reconstruction work abroad was in Afghanistan.  He 
further noted that the previous FM had changed the "way of our 
[peacekeeping] mission" by withdrawing Icelandic PRT personnel in 
April, although Iceland was still spending the same amount of money. 
Throughout the day, Burns expressed his strong appreciation for the 
contribution Iceland had made in Afghanistan, through ISAF airlift 
funding, the management of Kabul International Airport, and through 
PRT deployments in Chaghcharan.  Noting that NATO is a big alliance 
where every country brings something that they do best to Alliance 
missions, Burns strongly urged that Iceland consider renewing its PRT 
deployment, which had brought special skills to the table.  FM 
Gisladottir described a general apprehension among Icelanders at 
seeing their fellow citizens in military or quasi-military roles, but 
pledged to continue Iceland's activities in humanitarian 
reconstruction.  Burns reiterated the flexibility of the PRT concept, 
nothing this flexibility allowed for Iceland to shape its 
contributions in an appropriate manner.  Burns updated the PM and FM 
on progress in Afghanistan as a whole. 
 
IRAQ 
---- 
6. (C) In her meeting with Burns, FM Gisladottir drew attention to 
the new coalition government's statement regretting the war in Iraq, 
and pointed out that her party in 2003 had been deeply opposed to the 
invasion.  Burns noted that what was important at this point is the 
 
REYKJAVIK 00000192  002 OF 003 
 
 
need to work together to promote progress in stabilizing the country. 
 Over lunch, he emphasized the need to put the arguments of 2003 
behind us, and noted French President Sarkozy and German Chancellor 
Merkel have both made helpful comments in this regard. 
 
PALESTINE: FOLLOWING IN NORWAY'S FOOTSTEPS? 
------------------------------------------- 
7.  (C) Over lunch, FM Gisladottir expanded upon her recent idea that 
Iceland should follow Norway's lead and recognize the Palestinian 
Unity Government.  Burns said the U.S cannot accept Hamas until the 
organization renounces terrorism, accepts Israel and accepts peace, 
and noted this was the Quartet view.  FM Gisladottir responded that 
some in the European Commission believe the EU is trapped in this 
policy, because they have already invested so much in Palestine's 
infrastructure, which is crumbling without direct aid.  Burns argued 
that the U.N. fills that role, while Hamas has continued to prove its 
unreliability by smuggling weapons and, based on the day's news 
reports, is working to annihilate Fatah.  Time is needed to rebuild 
credibility on the Palestinian side.  Intrigued, FM Gisladottir asked 
point blank for Burns' view on the Norwegians' initiative.  Burns 
said that, in light of current events, legitimizing Hamas would be a 
mistake.  Hamas was acting in a completely unacceptable way, and the 
USG would make that clear to Norwegian FM Stoere.  Gisladottir noted 
that she will be meeting with Stoere in Oslo on June 20. 
 
RUSSIA 
------ 
8.  (C) Haarde said that Iceland's relationship with Russia is 
important, noting the historical trade ties and the strategic 
situation in the Barents Sea.  The Icelanders had an indication that 
Putin might be coming to Iceland as a stopover during his July 1-2 
visit to Maine to meet with President Bush.  Haarde said that his 
government has "watched in amazement" as Russia has attempted to 
reassert itself in unpredictable ways, particularly in the last year 
and with regard to the Baltic states.  Gisladottir pointed out the 
contradictions in Russian behavior at a Council of the Baltic Sea 
States ministerial earlier in the week, where Russian FM Lavrov 
flatly refused a meeting request from his Estonian counterpart, but 
was all smiles and easy jokes over dinner later at the meeting. 
Burns explained U.S. concern over Russian unpredictability, 
describing U.S. efforts to be patient and not respond to Putin's 
provocations.  Both the PM and FM agreed that like-minded nations 
need to work with Russia to encourage it to integrate with the 
broader world. 
 
ENERGY SECURITY/CLIMATE CHANGE 
------------------------------ 
9. (C) Haarde noted that energy transportation in the North Atlantic, 
especially between Russia and North America, will be an increasingly 
important issue.  Burns responded that we have great interest in 
energy security.  Haarde welcomed President Bush's climate change 
initiative as very important to Iceland and said the U.S. should take 
a leadership role on this issue.  Gisladottir also noted the 
importance of having India and China, in addition to the U.S., as 
part of the global arrangement to reduce emissions.  She described 
Icelandic investment in the U.S. in geothermal development and said 
there are a lot of possibilities to cooperate on deep-drilling 
research.  Haarde said that the "know-how" of harnessing geothermal 
resources was an Icelandic export commodity, and reiterated the 
Icelandic willingness to work together with the United States in this 
area.  Burns agreed that clean energy is an area where we can work 
together, and promised to talk to the Department of Energy to 
emphasize the importance of closer collaboration in research and 
development. 
 
WHALING 
------- 
10.  (C) Haarde proved more expansive on the reasoning behind 
Iceland's position on whaling than in prior discussions on the topic. 
 He stated flatly that Iceland would "never compromise on the 
principle" behind its issuance of a commercial whaling quota in 2006, 
and that the whale stock around Iceland must be "contained and 
culled."  Reflecting his confidence in in GOI-sponsored research 
claims that whales are a threat to Icelandic fish stocks, Haarde 
noted that Icelanders depend on fishing for their livelihood and that 
whaling should be viewed as a legitimate activity if it is done in a 
sustainable manner.  Haarde did allow that now that the Icelanders 
"have demonstrated the principle," his government may choose not to 
re-issue the commercial whaling quota if the largest company engaged 
in whaling cannot find a market for the meat.  While thanking Haarde 
for Iceland's support of the aboriginal bowhead quota at May's 
International Whaling Commission meeting in Anchorage (a vote the PM 
was keenly aware of), Burns communicated the strong objection the 
U.S. has to whaling for commercial reasons. 
 
QUEST FOR A UNSC SEAT 
 
REYKJAVIK 00000192  003 OF 003 
 
 
--------------------- 
11. (C) Haarde noted that much had changed in the world since 1945 
and Iceland was much in favor of reforming and strengthening the 
United Nations and expanding the Security Council.  He asked Burns 
for U.S. support for Iceland's UNSC bid and noted that despite the 
GOI's success in getting a few commitments for supporting votes, he 
didn't know how reliable they would be in the end.  Burns said that 
Iceland would be a welcome addition to the Council but that the USG 
does not disclose its votes in UN elections. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
12.  (C) Burns' visit to Iceland, the first by a senior U.S. official 
since 2003, was greatly welcomed by the new Icelandic government, and 
received heavy and positive press coverage.  In the meetings, some 
foreign policy divisions between the Prime Minister and his new 
Foreign Minister, most particularly on support for the war in Iraq, 
were deliberately underscored by Gisladottir.  In general, however, 
the personal relationship between the two most senior members of the 
new coalition appeared collegial and relaxed.  (In fact, Haarde said 
that the new government coalition was so stable that he saw no reason 
why it couldn't last for two to three terms.)  Gisladottir was 
willing to listen to the argument for a renewed Icelandic 
contribution to the PRT in Afghanistan, although her obvious wariness 
of any Icelandic association with any military means we still have 
work to do to convince her to renew the mandate before winter.  Both 
leaders expressed confidence that bilateral relations with the U.S. 
are back on a firm footing but want to wrap up the last of the base 
legacy issues, especially the future of IADS, early this summer. 
With Gisladottir clearly taking energetic control of her new brief, 
and in a mood to travel, we can expect a request for cabinet-level 
meetings in Washington within the near future.  PM Haarde's visit to 
the United States in August would present an excellent opportunity 
for a White House meeting with a NATO leader who is not only likely 
to be in place for a long time, but whose steadiness and calm 
management went a long ways to taking the domestic fire out of the 
base closure issue. 
 
van Voorst