Minister of Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þorðarson confirmed yesterday on national television that Iceland would not expel Russian diplomats from Iceland but it would nonetheless take other measures to show solidarity with other Western countries, RÚV reports.
In line with its size
While the US, Australia, Norway, Canada, Albania and various European countries made the decision to expel Russian diplomats after the neurotoxic attack that killed a former Russian spy and his daughter, Guðlaugur doesn’t consider that a viable move for Iceland. A country’s actions, he said, must be in line with its size. “We have three people working in Moscow right now,” he explained. “If 33% of them, or even 66%, was sent back back home because we’ve expelled their diplomats, we would not have a functioning embassy, and as far as I know no other countries in NATO are actually closing their embassies in Russia.”
Nonetheless, Guðlaugur hopes to show solidarity with other Western countries, including our Nordic neighbours, by sending a strong message to the Russian government. “We are drawing a line in the sand and we are hoping that Russian authorities will realise that,” he said.
A strong relationship
As we reported a week ago, Icelandic authorities were already considering boycotting the World Cup by refusing to travel to Russia for the 2018 World Cup. In his interview with RÚV, Guðlaugur ultimately confirmed that Icelandic authorities, including our president Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, will indeed be watching from home. “What matters for the World Cup is that Gylfi and company will be attending, along with their fans,” he said. “But it’s not that big a deal if I’m not there, even though I would have liked that very much.”
The government’s decision has been discussed with the Russian amabassador in Iceland Anton Vasiliev, who expressed his concerns regarding the whole situation. Vasiliev, like many other Russian authorities, has denied Russia’s involvement in the attack, explaining to RÚV that all chemical weapons in his country have been destroyed and that the attack has been taken very seriously in Russia, as it targeted a Russian citizen on UK soil. “We just don’t want this incident to compromise the relationship between Iceland and Russia,” Vasiliev added. “I’m sure it will continue being just as strong.”