Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphédinsson told the United Nations General Assembly on Monday that Iceland was determined to fully recognize Palestine and that he will next week put to the Parliament of Iceland a resolution on the recognition of Palestine as a sovereign and independent state.
Foreign Minister Össur Skarphédinsson speaking at the UN General Assembly. Courtesy of the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
The minister said Iceland would also vote yes when a resolution on the Palestinian statehood comes to a vote in the General Assembly, as stated on his ministry’s website.
Skarphédinsson said that recognizing Palestine would be in the spirit of reconciliation in the region and that it would be foolish to deny Palestine the right to statehood in the middle of the democratic revolution brought on by the Arabic spring.
Bjarni Benediktsson, chairman of the opposition’s Independence Party, told ruv.is that he doubted whether recognizing Palestine’s sovereignty was the right move, reasoning that it is generally regarded within the international arena as a dispute that must be resolved through bilateral negotiations.
“And I have also been of the view that we Icelanders have very limited knowledge and limited ability to get involved in the dispute [in Palestine],” Benediktsson stated, pointing out that very few European Union member states are prepared to take this step.
“And the EU has in fact continued to classify Hamas as a terrorist organization. So I have great reservations as to whether it is sensible to take this big step now,” he added.
At the UN, Skarphédinsson confirmed that that the Icelandic Parliament had unanimously agreed to substantially increase Iceland’s contribution to developing nations in the coming financial year.
It has also accepted a time-bound plan to raise the amount of aid to the 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI) target agreed on by the world’s governments.
The minister also stressed the importance of taking action on protecting the environment and fighting global warming, by pushing for a green revolution; a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Iceland has something to share in this regard, on geothermal technology, the minister said. When it came to the effects of global warming, few places were as hard hit as the Arctic, he added.