From Iceland — Foreign Minister Spoke With John Kerry About Whaling

Foreign Minister Spoke With John Kerry About Whaling

Published May 23, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
The Facebook page of Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson

Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson told reporters he and US Secretary of State John Kerry “understand and respect each other’s position” on whaling. Gunnar Bragi conceded, though, that halting whale hunting may improve relations between the two countries.

RÚV reports that the two discussed Iceland’s commercial whaling at a dinner in Washington, D.C. last Thursday evening. By Gunnar’s account, the conversation was pleasant, with no strong position taken by John Kerry, despite the White House having stepped up pressure on Iceland to cease whaling just over one year ago.

“We simply emphasised that this particular subject would not put a strain on relations between our two countries, which has been very good through the years,” he said. “I think we are all working on that. At the same time, we understand and respect each other’s position on this. The Americans get this, and it is the emphasis of the Icelandic government to strengthen our relationship with the west, and I am very pleased to be taking part in that.”

Gunnar Bragi conditionally admitted, though, that putting a stop to whaling would likely help in strengthening that relationship.

“Yes, of course it’s a plus to do that,” he told reporters. “But we still reserve the right to make use of those resources that we have around our country, and do that based on a scientific foundation.”

In April 2014, the White House issued a statement signed by US President Barack Obama that the president was “concerned” about Iceland’s whale hunting, and that he believes the issue should “receive the highest level of attention”.

To this end, the US president has issued a number of directives against Iceland. These directives range from speaking directly with Icelandic government officials to the use of trade sanctions. As the whaling season begins again in Iceland, what steps the US government will take still remain to be seen.

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