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Viewing cable 08REYKJAVIK52, Scenesetter for the Secretary's meeting with Icelandic

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08REYKJAVIK52 2008-04-03 16:04 2011-01-13 05:05 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRK #0052/01 0941647
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 031647Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3606
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE 0070
RHMFISS/HQ USAFE RAMSTEIN AB GE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L REYKJAVIK 000052 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NOFORN 
 
DEPT FOR S/ES-S 
ALSO FOR P, EUR/FO, EUR/NB 
OSD FOR USD-P EDELMAN, ALSO FOR OSD (WINTERNITZ) 
 
FROM AMBASSADOR VAN VOORST 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/02/2017 
TAGS: PREL MARR PGOV PINR NATO KWMN IC
SUBJECT: Scenesetter for the Secretary's meeting with Icelandic 
Foreign Minister Gisladottir 
 
Classified By: Amb. Carol van Voorst for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C/NF) Icelandic Foreign Minister Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir's 
visit to Washington April 10-12 will be her first visit with a 
bilateral agenda.  Since her Social Democratic Alliance party came 
into government last June, she has quickly forged a solid 
relationship with her center-right coalition partner Prime Minister 
Haarde (whom you met in Washington in 2006) and has assumed full 
control over the foreign affairs and defense brief.  She initially 
underestimated the demands of the job; Gisladottir came in with 
expectations of being able to take lengthy vacations in the Nordic 
tradition and dividing her time equally between statecraft and 
domestic party leadership.  The latter task has been roughly shoved 
aside in the last six months as the FM has been constantly on the 
road, largely in support of Iceland's UN Security Council bid. 
Mastering the defense and security issues in her portfolio (Iceland 
has neither a military nor a separate Ministry of Defense) has also 
been a challenge, though one that Gisladottir has tackled well. 
 
Still an activist, learning statesmanship 
----------------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C/NF) In person, Gisladottir's habitual body language is closed 
and stern; she often spends the first part of a meeting with arms 
crossed and her jaw tight.  This does not necessarily mean she 
disagrees, but warmth takes a while to percolate through and her 
interlocutors may not learn that their message was taken on board 
until later.  Our experience over the last year is that she has firm 
views, but listens closely and is willing to change her mind. 
 
3.  (C) Gisladottir is a shrewd politician with an activist streak, 
in the Nordic social democratic mold.  She keeps in close touch with 
Norwegian FM Store.  On foreign policy issues, she tends to bend to 
public opinion rather than set the tone herself.  As a socialist in a 
party with a strong pacifist wing, Gisladottir is uncomfortable with 
the appearance or use of force and struggles with the need to blend 
Icelandic civilian expertise into military (i.e., NATO) peacekeeping 
operations.  She has forcefully expressed her anger over the issue of 
alleged CIA rendition flights through Iceland.  At the same time, her 
skill in asserting her independence in foreign policy means that 
under her watch, Iceland passed its first-ever defense budget and is 
reforming its defense sector with barely a whisper of controversy. 
Formerly taboo subjects like the establishment of an intelligence 
analysis unit have been folded into this move with nothing resembling 
the hue and cry surrounding the previous coalition government's 
attempt to do so.  Her credibility on the renditions issue meant she 
was able to immediately squash a recent opposition call for a 
parliamentary inquiry. 
 
Meeting topics 
-------------- 
 
4.  (C) NATO/Afghanistan:  On Afghanistan, the FM will be eager to 
share her impressions from her March 15-17 trip to Kabul and 
Meymaneh.  Iceland has 14 civilian peacekeepers deployed with NATO 
and is developing a three-year plan for future involvement.  We 
strongly encouraged this first Icelandic cabinet-level trip to 
Afghanistan, which has pumped sorely needed information into the 
contentious debate here about why Iceland should care about 
Afghanistan.  Gisladottir is interested in USG views on how Iceland 
can best contribute, but Ministry sources tell us that the emphasis 
is firmly planted in civilian tasks that look much like traditional 
development aid.  We were disappointed last April when Gisladottir's 
predecessor pulled Iceland's mobile liaison team out of PRT 
Chaghcharan, and have lobbied her without success to renew that 
contribution.  We should push the Icelanders to greatly step up their 
support for police training, which may also allow them to blend in 
elements relating to the status of women (a heartfelt personal 
concern of Gisladottir's). 
 
5.  (C) The High North:  In Bucharest, Gisladottir and PM Haarde will 
announce Iceland's sponsorship of a NATO conference on security in 
the High North in January 2009.  Iceland has in ever-stronger terms 
called for increased Alliance focus on its North Atlantic 
neighborhood.  Pointing to the implications of the melting Arctic ice 
for maritime security and resources exploitation, Gisladottir will 
probably mention Iceland's acute awareness of a more assertive and 
visible Russia in the North Atlantic.  U.S. exercises and ship visits 
have helped to ease these concerns, and NATO's new air policing 
mission here beginning this April (with the French in one of their 
first NATO common defense tasks since de Gaulle; a U.S. rotation is 
slated for August 2008) has been warmly welcomed.  Gisladottir and 
her government now feel it is time that NATO think seriously about 
conventional security concerns in this part of the world, building on 
previous discussions about climate change and shipping security. 
 
6.  (SBU) Women and Peace:  Gisladottir founded Iceland's Women's 
List political party in the 1980s, and though that particular 
feminist group has been subsumed in her Social Democratic Alliance 
party, the FM still places immense importance on gender issues.  Her 
ministry just produced Iceland's action plan for implementing UNSCR 
1325 on the role of women in peacebuilding and security, and 
Gisladottir will want to raise this as an entree to the topic of the 
International Women's Commission for a Just and Sustainable 
Palestinian-Israeli Peace.  Gisladottir believes passionately that 
women have a special contribution to make to sustainable peace, and 
reportedly was appalled by the conditions endured by women in 
Afghanistan. 
 
7.  (C/NF) UN Security Council Campaign:  Though unlikely to press 
hard on Iceland's UNSC bid, Gisladottir will undoubtedly remind us 
that Iceland would appreciate U.S. support for a seat in 2009-10. 
The UNSC campaign is coloring in ever-stronger hues the conduct of 
Iceland's foreign policy; Gisladottir has made two trips to African 
Union meetings in the last year and just returned from a Caribbean 
visit, both regions not routinely toured by her predecessors.  More 
significantly, there are signs that Iceland delayed its recognition 
of Kosovo last month to try to avoid antagonizing Russia. 
Gisladottir has taken harsh criticism within her own party for her 
initially weak statements on the situation in Tibet, which many saw 
as a sop to the Chinese.  Similarly, the MFA concedes that a campaign 
trip to Iran last month by Gisladottir's deputy was an embarrassing 
mistake.  The learning curve for both the Minister and her MFA has 
been steep, and Iceland is getting a thorough introduction to the 
rough-and-tumble world they will be entering should they win a seat 
this fall. 
 
8.  (C) Other issues:  Whaling continues to be an irritant as there 
are rumblings that Iceland may allow commercial whaling again this 
year.  We should take the opportunity to point out that this step 
would not win them many votes in the Security Council race. 
Iceland's economy is showing some cracks in the "northern miracle" 
facade, as tightening world credit markets put the squeeze on the 
country's highly leveraged banking sector.  In more positive news, 
Gisladottir may note our flourishing bilateral cooperation on clean 
energy, though she mostly leaves this field to others such as 
President Grimsson and the Minister of Industry. 
 
 
van Voorst 
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