Reviewing Iceland's Relationship With The US Becomes Hot Topic In Parliament - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Reviewing Iceland’s Relationship With The US Becomes Hot Topic In Parliament

Published October 10, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photos by
Steinunn Þóra Árnadóttir

The withdrawal of US forces in northern Syria, thereby opening the way for Turkey to attack Kurds in the region, has been a matter of strong contention in the Icelandic Parliament, with some suggesting that Iceland’s relationship with the US should be reviewed.

Þor­gerður Katrín Gunn­ars­dótt­ir, the chair of the Reform Party, took a particularly strong position on the matter in Parliament last Monday, MBL reports.

In her address to Parliament, Þorgerður cited Friðjón R. Friðjóns­son, the former assistant to Minister of Finance and Independence Party chair Bjarni Benediktsson. Friðjón, posting on Facebook, said in part, “If Trump’s decision in Kurdistan is an indication of how the United States treats its allies, it is for the best that we end all partnership with this government. Our partnership in the Arctic would therefore be ended automatically.”

Þorgerður said she not only agrees with this statement, she added that US foreign policy is “a threat to the western cooperation that has been ongoing for years and decades”, and that the US is “a threat, a significant threat, to Iceland and all of us in the Arctic due to how the US conducts its environmental policies.”

With this in mind, Þorgerður directly asked Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Bjarni how they plan to respond to the situation in northern Syria.

Katrín said that she is always ready to discuss the cooperative agreement between Iceland and the US, and believed there is full occasion to do so. On the other hand, she added, the defense agreement between Iceland and the US is a part of Iceland’s international security agreement, and her position on this has not changed.

“I don’t know whether it would help the situation for us to take a particular position on an area of conflict,” Bjarni responded. “At this time, I should say though that I have very great concerns about the situation as it is now. It takes a lot for one country to justify crossing the border into another for intervention.”

Bjarni added that “it is not possible to look at this situation without any action or position, as lives are taken in the thousands. I believe it would be for the best, when it is asked how Iceland will respond, to try and avoid party politics and put forth a strong message on peace and actions that increase the peace.”

Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces has not only raised anger and confusion from the Kurdish people—including those living in Iceland—it has also drawn strong condemnation from within the Republican Party. Just this morning, Senators Chris Van Hollen (D) and Lindsey Graham (R) announced an outline to impose sanctions on Turkey for attacking Kurdish forces in Syria.

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