Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has found himself having to defend recent remarks made by Icelandic president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson on the subject of Russia and the Ukraine, which seem to contradict Iceland’s actual position on the conflict.
Norwegian news service Nordlys, reporting from a conference of Arctic Nations last week, say that Norwegian Assistant Foreign Minister Ingvild Næss Stub brought up the subject of Russia, criticising them harshly for their involvement in the Ukraine. Iceland’s president was quick to rush to Russia’s defence, saying that raising the subject was inappropriate for a conference of Arctic countries, adding furthermore that such criticisms could endanger the Arctic alliance.
The president has been criticised for trying to silence criticism of Russia, Vísir reports, with Pirate MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir asking the Prime Minister whether or not the president’s remarks reflect Iceland’s position. Sigmundur denied this was the case.
“The president of Iceland has freedom of speech,” Sigmundur told parliament. “He can share his opinion on matters great and small.”
In fact, Minister of Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson is on his way to Kiev to assess the situation and show his support for the Ukrainian government.
The president landed in a similar controversy in 2010, when he told the foreign press that he felt Iceland was better off not joining the EU – at a time when the Icelandic government was actively engaged in accession talks with the EU.