USA at Peace with Iceland? Ambassador finally arriving Skip to content

USA at Peace with Iceland? Ambassador finally arriving

The United States have not had an ambassador in Iceland since spring 2009. In April 2010 President Obama appointed Luis E. Arreaga Rhodas as ambassador in Iceland. Mr. Arreaga is a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service. This is because of an insult to the previous US ambassador by President Ólafur Ragnar Grímssson.

The ambassador was confirmed by the US Senate in August. According to American media the new ambassador will come to Iceland on September 20. If you go to the embassy homepage the text is still:

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There is no US Ambassador to Iceland at this time.

The reason for a long period of official chill towards Iceland is rooted in the event last year when the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, announced to the preovious ambassadod, Carol van Voorst, on April 8 that she would be honored with the Order of the Falcon, the highest recognition of the Icelandic state.

When Ambassador von Voorst was on her way to the presidential residence Bessastadir to formally accept the Order, she received a phone call explaining that the announcement had been sent by mistake and that she would not receive the Order after all, although she was still welcome to Bessastadir for a traditional farewell meeting.

President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson did present the Order of the Falcon to Björgólfur Gudmundsson, then chairman and owner of Landsbanki. Between them we see Landsbanki director Halldór J. Kristjánsson. Mr. Gudmundsson was deemed worthy.

Before this happened, von Voorst had to request special permission from US authorities to accept the Order of the Falcon, which was granted. She was displeased with how this matter had developed but still decided to meet the president.

Grímsson allegedly explained to her that only those who were deemed worthy were honored this way. In the past decades, three US Ambassadors to Iceland have received the Order of the Falcon.

At the time Eidur Gudnason, former Icelandic government minister and ambassador, said this incident was incredibly rude on behalf of the presidential office. Since van Voorst had received an announcement that she would be granted the Order she should have received it, regardless of whether a misunderstanding was involved or not.

“The presidential office cannot revoke such a thing, that is simply ridiculous,” Gudnason said. When asked whether he thought this incident would have an impact on the diplomatic relations between Iceland and the US, Gudnason replied: “No, I think the Americans will just have a laugh about this.”

The Americans seem to have been laughing for a year and a half now.

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