From Iceland — Foreign Minister Backpedals On Whaling Position

Foreign Minister Backpedals On Whaling Position

Published July 28, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson appears to be of two minds when it comes to Iceland’s whaling practices.

Gunnar Bragi has attempted to clarify remarks he made last week about whale hunting, which he says were misinterpreted in a manner that constituted “complete nonsense” as far as he is concerned.

“It’s been interesting to see people choose to interpret my words in all kinds of ways, like this is some kind of policy change or I don’t know what, which is naturally just complete nonsense,” he told RÚV. “I was simply speculating on practical matters.”

Last week, in an interview with Skessuhorn, the Foreign Minister admitted that Iceland’s continued whale hunting has caused the country to be “regarded suspiciously” and to be snubbed from being invited to certain international conferences.

Although the country should reserve the right to use whatever resources are available, he added, “It’s something to consider, that maybe we should abide the International Whaling Commission by hunting fewer whales each year than we do now.” This isn’t the first time he expressed this point of view, either. Last May, he conceded that US-Iceland relations would likely improve if Iceland stopped whaling altogether.

This was apparently just a hypothetical exercise in speculation, however, as Gunnar Bragi was very clear in his whaling position today, after being harshly criticised in parliament over these remarks.

“I did not put forward what we should or should not do,” he said. “In fact, I repeatedly emphasised throughout that interview that we should never give up our right to hunt whales. I also want to put forward that minke whales are an exception. I believe we should hunt minke whales like never before.”

Yet in the same statement, Gunnar added:

“But when it comes to our personal interests, then we need to ask ourselves whether we have more or fewer interests at stake by continuing whaling as is. Is it possible to reach an agreement or consensus over whale hunting? I don’t know.”

Whether “needing to ask ourselves” whether Iceland’s interests are served by whaling constitutes “putting forward what we should or should not do” was not immediately clarified.

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