Prime Minister Willing to Meet with Mike Pence Skip to content
Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir.
Photo: Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir at the Arctic Circle 2018 assembly..

Prime Minister Willing to Meet with Mike Pence

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir is willing to meet with American Vice President Mike Pence during his official visit to Iceland in early September, Vísir reports. This confirmation comes after a previous announcement that Katrín would be missing the meeting in favour of attending the convention of Nordic trade unions in Malmö, where she has been invited to be the keynote speaker.

According to the press release on the White House website, Pence has planned to “highlight Iceland’s strategic importance in the Arctic, NATO’s efforts to counter Russian aggression in the region, and opportunities to expand mutual trade and investment” during his visit. Katrín’s announcement that she would be skipping the meeting drew a great deal of attention both within Iceland and abroad.

Scheduling difficulties

At home, it was speculated that the decision was a veiled critique of Minister for Foreign Affairs and Independence Party MP Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson’s failure to disclose that one of the main reasons for the visit was to discuss the geographical importance of Iceland in relation to the Arctic. Abroad, foreign publications debated whether the decision should be interpreted as a snub in light of President Trump’s recent cancelled trip to Denmark after the Nordic nation indicated that it was not interested in selling Greenland to the United States.

Katrín brushed off all of these speculations, noting that “[i]t was already known that I was offered to be the keynote speaker at the annual convention of the Nordic trade unions a long time ago…It’s also been clear that the visit, which was planned by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, has been moving back and forth on the calendar so it has been difficult to plan around it.” Moreover, she noted that she has previously met with a number of US officials and that Pence would, at any rate, be received by other top officials in Iceland during his trip.

“I had a good meeting with Mike Pompeo, the United States Secretary of State, earlier this year,” she recalled in an interview with RÚV, “and likewise had a conversation with Donald Trump at a NATO meeting last year. I can assure everyone that when Mike Pence arrives in Iceland – I just hope the date is final now – that he will meet with Iceland’s finest leaders.”

Change of plans

The Prime Minister’s public relations officer Lára Björg Björnsdóttir announced Katrín’s willingness to find a new time after the Prime Minister had a meeting with the new American ambassador to Iceland, Jeffrey Ross Gunther, on Friday. The meeting, considered a courtesy visit following Jeffrey’s recent appointment, had been planned long before any of the furor over Pence’s visit began.

During the meeting, Jeffrey reintroduced the possibility that the Vice President might be able to meet with Katrín if he extended his stay in the country before continuing on to the UK and Ireland. Katrín said that she would be open to this if a suitable time could be found.

Katrín’s keynote speech at the Nordic Trade Union Conference will take place on September 3. The conference itself continues until September 5, but Katrín will return to Iceland on September 4.

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