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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06REYKJAVIK158
2006-05-03 17:19:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Reykjavik
Cable title:  

ICELAND DEFENSE: FM HAARDE DEFENDS

Tags:   MARR  PREL  NATO  IC 
pdf how-to read a cable
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

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