Foreign Minister of Iceland Össur Skarphédinsson remembers Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash in Russia yesterday, with warmth. “This is extremely tragic and I am filled with compassion for the Polish nation for losing their leader this way.”
“I met the president a few times and attended meetings with him on two occasions,” Skarphédinsson told visir.is. “The first time in relation with a NATO summit in Strasbourg and then I met him with the President of Iceland at the UN headquarters last September.”
Skarphédinsson said Kaczynski had been a controversial man in many aspects but that his goodwill towards Iceland had been unquestionable. Kaczynski was very interested in Iceland and knew Icelandic affairs well, the minister stated.
“In September I mainly discussed the difficult disputes with him, the cooperation with the IMF and Icesave. He had sympathy and understanding for our position. It was absolutely clear that Poland supported us and didn’t connect that support with loans related to the IMF’s economic program or the Icesave dispute,” Skarphédinsson added.
At the NATO summit in Strasbourg in April last year Skarphédinsson said he had thanked Kaczynski for Poland’s much-valued support by offering Iceland a loan worth nearly USD 200 million (EUR 149 million) after the banking collapse of 2008.
The minister said Kaczynski had been interested to learn about the situation of the Polish community in Iceland. “He knew that Poles are the largest group of immigrants in Iceland and that the coexistence had been successful. He was very pleased when I told him how important they have proven to our society.”
Both President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir sent their condolences to the Polish nation after they heard about the plane crash yesterday morning.
It is believed that 96 people died in the plane crash in western Russia. Among those who died were the president’s wife and a number of high-ranking Polish officials.
A memorial service about Kaczynski and the other victims of the plane crash was held in the Kristskirkja Church in Landakot in Reykjavík yesterday.
Many Icelandic residents of Polish origin attended the sermon, as did PM Sigurdardóttir and Speaker of the Icelandic Parliament Ásta Ragnheidur Jóhannesdóttir.