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Cablegate: Abbas Stopover in Iceland: Special Envoy Appointed,

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OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHRK #0071/01 1141917
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O 231917Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3633
INFO RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 0013
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 0003
RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE

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DEPT FOR EUR/NB, NEA[BRE2]/PA, NEA/IPA

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TAGS: PREL PINR KPAL KWBG IS XF IC
SUBJECT: ABBAS STOPOVER IN ICELAND: SPECIAL ENVOY APPOINTED,
REYKJAVIK SUMMIT IDEA FLOATED

1. (SBU) Summary: In a short-notice visit, Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas overnighted in Iceland April 21-22, meeting
with Icelandic President Grimsson and Foreign Minister Gisladottir.
At the ceremonial lunch with Grimsson, Abbas lauded the
contributions of small states like Iceland in the Middle East Peace
Process, a theme he reiterated at a press conference after meeting
with Foreign Minister Gisladottir. For her part, Gisladottir named
Iceland's first Special Envoy to the Palestinian Authority, as part
of the Government's increased humanitarian and development
assistance efforts announced last year. Abbas cited the 1986
"Reykjavik Summit" as a specific example of how Iceland as a small
state could be involved in the peace process, which generated
considerable press interest and speculation. After a readout from
the Ministry's Political Director, details of Iceland's new policy
moves remain somewhat sketchy, but they are clearly in line with
this Government's push to increase its presence on the international
stage. End Summary.

2. (U) On April 21, Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson's
office announced that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
would arrive in Iceland that evening for a visit en route to his
Washington meetings with President Bush. Grimsson hosted Abbas for
lunch on April 22, after which Abbas met with Icelandic Foreign
Minister Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir.

3. (SBU) The Grimsson-Abbas lunch was largely ceremonial in nature,
in keeping with Grimsson's minimal policy role in the Icelandic
system. However, both leaders used the occasion as an opportunity
for declarations of mutual Icelandic-Palestinian support and desires
for peace in the Middle East.

4. (SBU) FM Gisladottir, in contrast, used her meeting with Abbas
as a platform to unveil several new policy initiatives, building
upon her trip to the region last fall and the MFA's announcement at
the December Paris Donors' Conference of a four-fold increase in aid
to the Palestinian people. Gisladottir notified Abbas (and
subsequently the media) that she has appointed Iceland's first
special envoy, Thordur Aegir Oskarsson, to the Palestinian
Authority. In a readout meeting with Charge on April 23, MFA
Political Director Greta Gunnarsdottir noted that the special envoy,
a career diplomat who is now Iceland's Ambassador to Japan, would
travel frequently to the region to oversee Iceland's increased
assistance to the Palestinian Authority. He would work closely with
international organizations and NGOs already administering
humanitarian and development programs in the Palestinian area. The
envoy will be accredited to the Palestinian Authority and will not
liaise with the Israelis. She said, "There will be a distinct
division of labor" and that Icelandic-Israeli relations will
continue to be managed by Iceland's Ambassador resident in
Copenhagen.

5. (SBU) Additionally, Abbas cited the 1986 "Reykjavik Summit" as a
specific example of how Iceland as a small state could be involved
in the peace process. Foreign Minister Gisladottir said Iceland
would, of course, support such an idea. The Political Director
emphasized, however, that Abbas' remark was meant only as an
example, and not as an explicit suggestion. She added that the
media had reported the comment with liberty, and had perhaps made
more of it than was actually intended.

6. (U) Media Coverage: All media covered yesterday's visit by
President Abbas in straight forward terms. Media widely reported FM
Gisladottir's appointment of veteran diplomat Thordur Aegir
Oskarsson (presently Iceland's Ambassador to Japan -- see bio note
para. 7) as a special envoy to the Palestinian Authority. The
Foreign Minister said Oskarsson would visit the area frequently and
would effectively be Iceland's ambassador to Palestine. The press
picked up on President Abbas' comment that "Iceland can play a big
role in the peace process, as it did by hosting the Reykjavik
summit." Foreign Minister Gisladottir responded that "we are going
to concentrate on that." At a press conference, President Abbas
told the media that "the time when only super powers governed the
world was over." He said, "Icelanders and Palestinians have their
fight for independence in common and the role of Iceland really
matters in the Middle East." Comment: Post anticipates that
editorial comment on the visit and Iceland's policy initiatives will
begin appearing in the print media on April 24. End comment.

7. (SBU) Bio Note: Thordur Aegir Oskarsson is currently Iceland's
Ambassador to Japan and the Philippines, a post he has held since
2004. Oskarsson will take up his duties as Special Envoy to the
Palestinian Authority later this spring. He has a BA in Political
Science from the University of Iceland (1979) and an MA in
International Politics from the University of Wisconsin (1980), and
was a Ph.D. student at Wisconsin from 1980-83. Oskarsson returned
to Iceland in 1983, and worked as a researcher for a short-lived

REYKJAVIK 00000071 002 OF 002


think tank on national security, an urban planner and a reporter for
a newspaper aligned with Iceland's Progressive Party. He joined the
Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 1988. In 1999 Oskarsson was
appointed Iceland's OSCE PermRep in Vienna, and subsequently was
accredited to Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovinia, Slovakia, and Hungary as
well as the UN Agencies in Vienna. He is married with two
children.

KLOPFENSTEIN

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