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Cablegate: Iceland Defense Talks: Pm Unveils Agreements for The

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FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2979
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
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RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0229
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY 0032
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 REYKJAVIK 000357

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DEPT FOR P (BAME), EUR/NB (MIDDLETON, MAHER), EUR/PPD
SECDEF FOR OSD/RA (COSTA), OSD/P (KELSO, HURSCH)
OSLO FOR DATT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MARR PREL PTER KPAO NATO IC
SUBJECT: Iceland Defense Talks: PM Unveils Agreements for the
Public

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1. (SBU) Summary: Iceland's Prime Minister Haarde presented the
results of the last six months of U.S.-Iceland defense talks to his
political opposition, the parliamentary foreign affairs committee,
and the nation in meetings and an hour-long televised press
conference September 26. Haarde - with the leader of the minority
party in the coalition government by his side - described the
provisions of the "Technical Agreement" to close Naval Air Station
Keflavik and the "Joint Understanding" describing the way ahead in
the bilateral security relationship, as well as a list of new
Icelandic government initiatives on security issues. The opposition
has yet to respond forcefully, perhaps intimidated by the breadth
and depth of the defense framework Haarde has presented.

2. (SBU) Following the PM's announcement, Ambassador gave interviews
to key Icelandic media, the first step in a rollout campaign to
affirm America's continuing commitment to Icelandic security and our
intention to help Iceland develop (through, e.g., exercises,
training, and defense industrial cooperation) the capability to
contribute more to its own security. That the GOI also unveiled
some initiatives of its own - including a strategic studies think
tank - reinforces our view that Haarde's government is now ready to
break with Cold War-think and look seriously at how it can do its
part to protect its people from contemporary threats. End summary.

3. (SBU) During the last round of U.S.-Iceland defense talks in
Washington September 14, both sides were able to reach agreement on
a technical agreement for the closure of Naval Air Station Keflavik
(NASKEF), a political "Joint Understanding" on the way forward for
defense relations, and amendments to certain classified annexes to
the original 1951 Defense Agreement between the U.S. and Iceland.
Prime Minister and Independence Party head Geir Haarde met with
opposition party members and the Althingi (parliament) foreign
affairs committee on 26 September to brief on the substance of the
agreements. Haarde followed this at the end of the day with a
pre-announced, nationally-broadcast press conference.

4. (U) In his hour-long press conference, Haarde - joined as in the
other meetings by his junior coalition partner, Minister of Commerce
Jon Sigurdsson of the Progressive Party, stepping in for the absent
Foreign Minister - proclaimed himself satisfied with the results of
the negotiations and affirmed that there was no fundamental change
to the terms of the 1951 Agreement. He noted that he had spoken to
U/S Burns earlier in the day to confirm that all the details were
taken care of on the U.S. side, and said Foreign Minister
Sverisdottir and an appropriate official on the USG side would sign
the Technical Agreement within the next few days. Haarde said he
and the Foreign Minister will travel to Washington to sign the Joint
Understanding in the next month.

5. (SBU) Haarde also unveiled a list (some not previously raised
with the USG) of additional GOI initiatives for both the base
transition and defense planning tracks, including:

--creation of a publicly-owned development corporation to manage the
conversion of the former NASKEF site to civilian use;

--creation of a cabinet-level body similar to a national security
council, with its first task the review of all public security
legislation;

--increased interagency cooperation between police, Icelandic Coast
Guard (ICG), and emergency services;

--purchase of new fixed-wing aircraft and ships for the ICG after
new ICG helicopter acquisition is completed; and

--creation of a think tank on security issues to include
representatives from all political parties.

6. (U) At the press conference, Haarde described at some length the
substance of the Joint Understanding and Technical Agreement, noting
at several points the government's satisfaction at the outcome of
the negotiations. In particular, he described the USG's ongoing
commitment to defend Iceland, which he noted goes beyond the
guarantees offered by NATO membership. The PM pointed to the Joint
Understanding's provisions on the intent to hold annual exercises in
Iceland, and expressed his confidence that such exercises would
underline the U.S. military's ability to defend Iceland with mobile,
agile forces. He also described the GOI's hopes for further
engagement with U.S. law enforcement agencies as well as the U.S.
Coast Guard, as set out in the Joint Understanding.


REYKJAVIK 00000357 002.4 OF 002


7. (U) Haarde also devoted considerable time to the issue of
environmental mitigation at the NASKEF site, noting that the two
governments had expended considerable effort on the matter.
Commenting that it is simply not possible to run an airport without
pollution, Haarde outlined U.S. military efforts at environmental
cleanup over the years and emphasized that of the known 60 sites
with some form of pollution, none are known to pose a danger to
human health. The PM said the GOI was pleased with the information
it had received from the U.S. military on environmental issues and
said this information and further plans for environmental mitigation
efforts would be made public.

8. (U) For his part, Minister of Commerce Jon Sigurdsson (standing
in for Foreign Minister and fellow Progressive Party member
Valgerdur Sverrisdottir, in New York for the UN General Assembly)
affirmed his party's support for the agreements, and was even more
direct than the PM on the need for Iceland to take a bigger
responsibility for its own security. "We need to develop an
independent capability so we can have a serious discussion about
defense issues," Sigurdsson noted during the Q&A period following
the PM's presentation.

9. (U) Initial reaction from opposition politicians was muted, as
they sought to absorb and interpret the broad program Haarde had
outlined:

-- The leading opposition Alliance party deployed parliamentary whip
Ossur Skarphedinsson, who welcomed the government's proposals for a
multi-party security think tank and increased law enforcement and
security agency cooperation. At the same time, Skarphedinsson
complained that the talks' outcome still left Icelanders in doubt as
to their security, as "no Icelander except for two ministers has
seen" the EUCOM defense plan for Iceland.

-- Left-Green Chairman Steingrimur Sigfusson, a declared pacifist,
welcomed the departure of U.S. forces but criticized the GOI for
permitting the U.S. to leave without bearing full responsibility for
environmental issues on the base. He stated his opposition to
future exercises and defense cooperation as outlined in the
agreements, saying he had hoped Iceland would take the opportunity
to abrogate the 1951 bilateral agreement and establish an
independent foreign policy.

10. (SBU) Following the PM's announcement, Ambassador gave
interviews to several of Iceland's leading media outlets. We plan
to continue our outreach efforts in the media and with contacts from
numerous affinity groups (e.g. parliamentarians, business leaders,
students) over the days ahead.

11. (SBU) Comment: The PM played it straight during his press
conference outlining the defense agreements, delving into the finer
details of the agreements with confidence. His comprehensive
overview of the documents will likely help to counter some criticism
- already being voiced by opposition party members seemingly too
overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information they received today
to mount a nuanced riposte - that the GOI could have "gotten a
better deal" if it had been better prepared for the talks.
Similarly, Haarde's efforts to keep the focus on future bilateral
cooperation in defense and security affairs, as well as the
unveiling of a list of domestic GOI initiatives in this area, will
be to our benefit as we seek to expand on this message in the weeks
and months ahead. One indication of how far the conversation on
security affairs has come in six months was the PM's use of the
phrase "a new chapter" in Iceland-U.S. relations, the same metaphor
that Icelandic media - convinced the base closure would bring to an
end the U.S.-Iceland security saga - excoriated U.S. officials for
using back in March.

VAN VOORST

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