Suspending the operations of the embassy but not breaking up political relations
Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, the Miniter of Foreign Affairs announced today that the operation Iceland's embassy in Russia would be suspended. mbl.is/Kristinn Magnússon
“We are making a decision to suspend our operations in Moscow because the criteria for running an embassy there have completely changed,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir tells mbl.is.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced today that the operations of the embassy in Russia will be terminated from August 1st. There would then be a requirement that the operations of the Russian embassy in Iceland should be minimized as well.
Asked if the Foreign Ministry was expelling Russia’s ambassador, Mikhail Noskov, Gylfadóttir said this was not the case. “By virtue of the reciprocity, which is generally assumed in diplomatic relations, we require them to reduce their activity here, both in the number of staff and also that the embassy here is not controlled by the ambassador,” she says.
What was the final straw? Why are you doing this now?
“I have been asked very often, since the end of February of last year, about the operation of the embassy here and about the presence of the ambassador here. I have also pointed out that the operations that have actually taken place in all the countries around us, that is, sending people to their home as well as calling for their people to return home. That is generally answered by reciprocity. In our case, our operations would be terminated, because we have a handful of employees in Moscow. I have always said that this decision needs to be properly considered and carefully planned,” says Gylfadóttir.
Árni Þór Sigurðsson is the ambassador of Iceland in Moscow and Mikhail Noskov the ambassador of Russia in Reykjavik. Composite image
The criteria not the same
Gylfadóttir says the criteria for running an embassy in Moscow are broken and it does not appear that it will change in the near future.
“We’ll cease that operation without breaking off political relations with Russia and without closing the embassy formally. So if circumstances change, it’s possible to resume operations,” she says.
The minister says that Iceland’s relations with Russia are at an all-time low already. She points out that Iceland has embassies in 18 capitals. “There are no more than that. When we make a decision to open or maintain operations in the capital, we consider, among other things, business, cultural and political ties,” she says.“ These relations are at an all-time low right now.
"We have links with all kinds of states"
Asked if it would be possible to go further and end political relations with Russia altogether, Gylfadóttir says that is not on the agenda.
“None of the states with which we compare ourselves have done so. I have always maintained that we do not have exclusively political ties to the liken state or states with which we have good relations. We have relations with all sorts of states. I don’t see breaking political ties with Russia as more important than with other countries around us,” she says.