Government Divided Over NATO - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Government Divided Over NATO

Published November 22, 2010

Both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister – who are Social Democrats – expressed satisfaction on their return from a meeting with NATO leaders. However, chairman of the foreign affairs committee Árni Þór Sigurðsson – a Leftist-Green – said that his party’s position that Iceland should withdraw from NATO has not changed.
The Leftist-Greens have long opposed Iceland’s joining NATO, arguing that Iceland is a peaceful nation that has no place in a military organisation. In fact, when Iceland’s parliament voted to join NATO in 1949, thousands rioted in downtown Reykjavík.
While anti-NATO sentiment has for the most part quieted down since the naval base in Keflavík closed in 2006, the platform of the Leftist-Greens remains unchanged. This was reiterated when Árni Þór spoke to RÚV.
Iceland took part in creating an agreement with Russia that would develop a missile defence shield in Europe. The Leftist-Greens have opposed this idea, and Árni Þór told reporters that this position hasn’t changed. NATO is a military organisation, he said, and the Leftist-Greens are anti-militarist. At the same time, he said, there is no parliamentary majority for formally withdrawing from NATO.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson told RÚV that he was very pleased with how the NATO meeting went. “You could say that this meeting turned into one big hug between NATO and Russia,” he said in part. He added that he felt the development of the missile defence shield will lead to a nuclear-weapons-free Europe.

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