From Iceland — Foreign Minister Defends Sanctions, Criticises Fishing Companies

Foreign Minister Defends Sanctions, Criticises Fishing Companies

Published August 16, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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Minister of Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson has responded bluntly to critics of Iceland’s participation in the sanctions against Russia, and took a swipe at a former prime minister in the process.

Kjarninn reports that Gunnar Bragi sat for an interview on the radio show Sprengisandur today to discuss, amongst other topics, Iceland’s decision to participate in trade sanctions against Russia in response to their activities in the Crimea and Ukraine. The decision has prompted Russia to retaliate by ceasing to buy Icelandic products.

As 10% of Iceland’s fishing exports last year were bought by Russia, numerous heads of large fishing companies have levied criticism at Gunnar Bragi. For example, Gunnþór Ingvason, the director of the herring company Síldarvinnslun, told reporters Iceland should be neutral when it comes to foreign policy, and that Gunnar Bragi ought to consider the interests of Icelandic companies.

Gunnar Bragi responded that it was “dishonourable how some of these men talk”, saying that heads of Icelandic fishing companies were “thinking first and foremost about their profits”. He called upon these companies, who are trusted with natural resources, to “show a sense of social responsibility”. He added that it would be a good idea to consider “whether or not these are the best men to be handling our resources”.

Gunnar Bragi was also asked what his response was to a recent Reykjavíkurbréf column that appeared in Morgunblaðið, and is presumed to have been penned by Davíð Oddsson – former Prime Minister of Iceland and current Morgunblaðið co-editor. In the column, the author implies that Gunnar Bragi does not understand what the role of a foreign minister is in Icelandic society, and did not carefully consider the consequences of taking part in the sanctions against Russia.

To this, Gunnar Bragi responded directly to Davíð Oddsson, saying, “Look in the mirror and think a little about how things were handled when Iraq was invaded,” referring to the fact that Davíð was Prime Minister when Iceland joined the “Coalition of the Willing”. The decision was a controversial one at the time, as it had never been put up for a parliamentary vote.

Gunnar Bragi reiterated that the Icelandic government will not be reconsidering its decision to engage in sanctions against Russia.

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