From Iceland — Icelandic Embassy in Moscow to Close, Russian Ambassador Expected to Leave

Icelandic Embassy in Moscow to Close, Russian Ambassador Expected to Leave

Published June 9, 2023

Photo by
Igor - PicassaWeb / Wikimedia Commons

The Icelandic government has announced the closure of its embassy in Moscow, with the activities set to cease on August 1, reports RÚV. Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir conveyed this decision to the Russian ambassador during a meeting earlier on June 9, also expressing the government’s desire for Russia to minimize its embassy activities in Iceland, leading to the departure of the Russian ambassador from the country.

While this decision signifies a reduction in political engagement between the two nations, it is important to note that it does not sever the political relationship entirely. Þórdís Kolbrún emphasised that the closure of the embassy and the departure of the Russian ambassador should be seen as a temporary measure, with the intention to reopen the embassy as conditions permit.

The February 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces has prompted occasional calls for the expulsion of the Russian ambassador from Iceland. However, Þórdís Kolbrún clarified that the decision to close the embassy in Moscow was the result of careful deliberation and was not aimed at terminating the political relationship with Russia. Rather, it is a response to the current limited state of relations between the two countries.

The Icelandic embassy in Moscow has reported minimal activity recently. In turn, the Icelandic government expects a substantial reduction of approximately 70 percent in the activities of the Russian Embassy in Reykjavík. The Russian Embassy in Reykjavík currently employs three diplomats and five staff members.

A statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explains that the closure of the embassy in Moscow is due to the misalignment of its activities with the priorities of the Icelandic foreign service. The statement further notes that regardless of commercial, cultural, or political ties, relations with Russia have been kept at a minimum level.

The foreign minister underscored the reasons behind this decision, stating, “In the case of Russia, none of this applies, and we all know why. Consequently, in our mind, it is not normal that there is so much Russian activity here in Reykjavík because of the way relations are very limited and will remain so until the Russians decide to behave in a different way than they do now.”

Following the announcement, the Russian ambassador was summoned to a meeting with Minister Þórdís Kolbrún, where he was informed of the decision to close the embassy in Moscow. The ambassador was also notified of the Icelandic government’s expectation for Russia to scale down its representation in Iceland, resulting in the absence of an ambassador heading the embassy in Reykjavík and a reduction in overall embassy activities.

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