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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09REYKJAVIK131 2009-07-29 16:29:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Reykjavik
Cable title:  

ICELAND ON ICESAVE: "WE ARE WILLING TO PAY"

Tags:   PGOV PREL PINR EUN IC 
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FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4129
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 REYKJAVIK 000131 

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STATE FOR EUR A/DAS GILCHRIST, EUR/NB, INR/B
NSC FOR HOVENIER
TREASURY FOR NORTON

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/28/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR EUN IC
SUBJECT: ICELAND ON ICESAVE: "WE ARE WILLING TO PAY"

Classified by: CDA Neil Klopfenstein for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: Multiple GOI sources privately expressed the
government's intention to guarantee the Icesave deposits held by
foreign depositors in the UK and the Netherlands. In addition, the
Foreign Minister told the UK Ambassador that he expects the Althingi
to approve the controversial guarantee agreement when it reconvenes
next week. The UK Ambassador also reiterated that neither the UK,
nor the Netherlands, is linking the Icesave issue to Iceland's EU
accession. END SUMMARY.

Iceland intends to pay for Icesave


--------------------------




2. (C) An aide to former Foreign Minister Ingibjorg Solrun
Gisladottir who is currently working behind the scenes for the Social
Democratic Alliance approached CDA and stressed Iceland's intention
to reimburse the losses of individuals who held Icesave accounts in
the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. "We are willing to pay," she
said. The aide explained that the current debate in the Althingi is
about the specific terms of the loan, not about whether or not the
depositors should be paid. If the terms of the loan can be agreed
upon in the Foreign Affairs Committee, then the bill should pass.



3. (C) The UK Ambassador informed EmbOffs that he received the same
information from the current Foreign Minister, Ossur Skarphedinsson,
in a meeting Friday afternoon. Sharphedinsson explained that the
current delay in the Althingi is not about whether to cover the
deposits but rather over desired clarifications in the treaty. The
two main sticking points, said Skarphedinsson, are clarifications
that in the event of a default: 1) the British and Dutch governments
will not take possession of Icelandic government-owned assets abroad
and 2) Iceland's natural resources will not be used as collateral.
The UK Ambassador told EmbOffs that the UK and the Dutch will not
oppose such addendums. It is likely, according to the British
Ambassador, that the two addendums will be added to the agreement
next week when the Althingi reconvenes. Skarphedinsson said that he
believes these additions will be sufficient to sway opinion on the
bill and allow all sides to claim victory. It is Skarphedinsson's
hope that the bill will pass as soon as next week.



4. (C) Yet another sticking point, however, may also be a clause in
the agreement regarding Iceland's ability to renegotiate the terms
should its debt burden exceed the amount in its depository insurance
fund when Iceland must begin repaying the loan. (Note: Iceland will
be given a seven year grace period before it must start repaying the
loan. End note.) A member of the Civic Movement told EmbOff that
the opposition parties believe this clause is too weak and must be
strengthened.



5. (C) Skarphedinsson told the UK Ambassador that Prime Minister
Johanna Sigurdardottir is losing patience with the delays and has
told members of the Left Green Movement (LGM) within the ruling
coalition to support the agreement by next Thursday or she will
resign, causing the government to disband. This is a sizeable threat
that could hit home with several sitting members of the LGM who would
be unlikely to be reelected to parliament in a new election.
Skarphedinsson believes that the Prime Minister's ultimatum to the
Left Green Party, in combination with the addendums, will provide the
needed votes to pass the agreement by a narrow margin.

UK won't renegotiate Icesave agreement


--------------------------




6. (C) The UK Ambassador firmly stated that the UK will not
renegotiate the Icesave agreement, despite calls from a small number
of GOI officials to do so. From the UK's perspective, it holds all
of the cards and is under no pressure to renegotiate the current
settlement. It considers the Icesave loan to be like a mortgage
agreement in which the borrower (Iceland) has no collateral and a
poor credit rating, making it a more risky investment for the UK. In
response to one critique that the interest rate on the loan is too
high and that the UK and Netherlands are profiting from the
arrangement, the UK Ambassador said that the GOUK is charging only
what it is costing them to raise the money, plus administrative
costs.

The LGM: Supporting Icesave to stay in power


--------------------------




7. (C) The LGM, the minority member of the ruling coalition, has lost
significant political capital in voting to apply for EU membership
and could lose more support by approving the Icesave agreement. The
UK Ambassador posited that Steingrimur Sigfusson, Minister of Finance
and head of the LGM, continues to support the ruling coalition's
Social Democratic Alliance agenda because he realizes that this is
the only way for his political party to remain in power. This is the
only means the LGM has to continue to play a key role in building a
new Iceland, one that replaces cronyism with transparency. In the

REYKJAVIK 00000131 002 OF 002


meantime, the LGM can claim influence and victory based on the fact
that the state has resumed a larger ownership role in key economic
sectors than it had prior to the financial collapse, which is one of
the LGM's main platform items.

Comment


--------------------------




8. (C) Despite conflicting reports in the media, the key players in
the Icesave agreement, namely the GOI and the GOUK, are cautiously
optimistic that the issue will be resolved in the next few weeks.
Media coverage is beginning to reflect this shift through recent
reporting that highlights the Icesave agreement as a decent deal
compared to the other loans Iceland is receiving, including the IMF
loan. All parties appear to agree that Iceland must guarantee the
Icesave deposits for the minimum amount. While attempts have been
made to link the recent EU accession talks to resolving the Icesave
issue, the UK Ambassador and others have continued to reiterate the
need to de-link the issues. Both sides believe that the two
addendums covering the concerns of Icelandic assets abroad and use of
natural resources should stifle the loudest detractors of the Icesave
bill into supporting the ruling coalition government. If the
Icesave bill is finally passed, it should be considered a resounding
victory for the ruling coalition, as well as for the former Icesave
account holders, paving a slightly smoother path towards restoring
Iceland's international reputation.
KLOPFENSTEIN