PM Jakobsdóttir Receives 2,000 Signatures on Israeli Actions

Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir received 2,000 signatures urging Icelandic authorities to condemn Israeli military actions in Palestine, RÚV reports. While she emphasised the importance of humanitarian laws and humanitarian aid for Palestine, she did not directly commit to the protesters’ demands.

2,000 signatures handed over

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir received approximately 2,000 signatures demanding that Icelandic authorities condemn the actions of the Israeli military in Palestine, RÚV reports. Around 100 people gathered this morning outside the Prime Minister’s residence on Tjarnargata to protest the conflict in Palestine. The government held a meeting there this morning.

Katrín stepped out of the meeting to speak with the protesters, where Sema Erla Serdar, an activist and Chair of the Solaris association, presented her with the signatures collected over two days. Katrín then returned to the meeting, which concluded shortly before 10 AM.

“Not enough has been done”

“It has not been enough; Icelandic authorities have not condemned the war crimes and mass murders by Israeli officials, and we demand that they do. And we will continue to show up here if necessary,” Sema Erla told RÚV after Katrín had returned inside the residence.

When asked whether the PM had made any promises, Sema responded thusly: “She promised to address the issue in the meeting and to continue advocating on this matter. We will see what that means.”

As noted by RÚV, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir did not directly answer whether Icelandic authorities would yield to the demands of the protesters when approached by the media after the meeting. Instead, she emphasised the importance of respecting humanitarian laws.

“We have, of course, recognized Palestine as an independent state,” Katrín remarked. “We have always advocated for a two-state solution. We have supported the recent demand for humanitarian aid to be allowed into the region and have allocated additional funds for humanitarian assistance in Gaza. We always emphasise the importance of international laws being respected – including humanitarian laws.”

Ukraine War: Humanitarian Aid to Be Increased Next Year, PM Says

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has told RÚV that the government will increase its expenditure on humanitarian aid next year as a result of the war in Ukraine. Katrín has condemned Russia’s invasion and recent missile strikes on Ukrainian cities.

Nuclear threats “entirely unacceptable”

After Russian President Vladimir Putin launched missile strikes on several Ukrainian cities on Monday – in response to Saturday’s attack on a bridge linking Russia with occupied Crimea – political leaders in the west have expressed their condemnation. At least 11 people have reportedly been killed and scores more have been injured, the Guardian reports.

Following news of this attack, Ukrainians in Iceland congregated in front of the Russian embassy in Reykjavík to protest. The protest’s organiser stated that “it was like the war was beginning again.”

Speaking to RÚV this afternoon, PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir observed that the war in Ukraine was obviously escalating. “We’re seeing threats of nuclear attacks, which is, of course, entirely unacceptable; we’re seeing attacks on civilians, which is, of course, also completely unacceptable. The war is intensifying.”

When asked how the government would respond to this escalation, Katrín began by saying that her cabinet had always been vocal in its condemnation of Russia’s illegal invasion on the global political stage.

“We’ve also contributed through humanitarian aid – and will continue to do so. We’re drafting plans for next year, as we don’t foresee the conflict coming to an end,” Katrín remarked. It is unclear at this time how much the government will earmark for humanitarian aid next year; according to the government’s website, Iceland has thus far contributed ISK 1 billion of humanitarian aid to the war in Ukraine.

In addition to humanitarian aid, Katrín added that Iceland has offered assistance in the form of training, with regard to the location and disposal of explosive devices, in addition to participating in other comparable projects directly related to the conflict. Katrín also mentioned Iceland’s reception of Ukrainian refugees.

Housing Shortage Won’t Prohibit Iceland Receiving Ukrainian Refugees

Dómsmálaráðherra Ríkisstjórn Alþingi Jón Gunarsson

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said Monday that issues surrounding the Directorate of Immigration’s housing facilities will not deter or delay Iceland’s reception of refugees from Ukraine, and preparations are already underway, Vísir reports.

Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson told Vísir last week that “there is a real state of emergency at the Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL),” exacerbated by the unwillingness of asylum seekers in Iceland to undergo PCR testing required as a condition of their deportation from the country. He said the Directorate’s difficulties in carrying out deportations of some refugees is resulting in less housing and fewer facilities available to welcome other refugees that the government is willing to welcome

During question period in Alþingi Monday, Social Democratic Alliance MP Helga Vala Helgadóttir called the Minister of Justice’s comments unacceptable and asked the Prime Minister if they were reflective of the government’s policy.

Katrín replied that many people are in very vulnerable positions and it matters how those groups are talked about.

Furthermore, she said the status of ÚTL’s housing will not hinder Iceland’s reception of Ukrainian refugees. Katrín noted that the Minister of Social Affairs had already met with the Refugee Committee and preparations had already begun to receive them.

The Prime Minister reminded Alþingi that half a million Ukrainians have already fled the country since the Russian armed forces began their invasion on Feb. 24, and that figure could increase to four to five million. She said a large proportion of those who have fled will likely want to return to their home country when the situation allows, so both short- and long-term arrangements need to be considered.

“I would like to note that it is not long since the situation deteriorated in Afghanistan and the Icelandic government initially decided to receive a certain number of people and then decided to receive a larger number of Afghan refugees because we felt it was important to take responsibility for the global community. In relative terms, we actually welcomed more people than other Nordic countries did on that occasion. So when we look at what has previously been done, we have not shied away from taking responsibility,” Katrín said.

Protesters, Authorities Voice Support for Ukraine

Protest

Approximately 300 people gathered outside the Russian Embassy yesterday to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Additional protests have been scheduled outside the embassy for Sunday. The Icelandic government strongly condemned Russia’s attack yesterday and iterated its support for Ukraine.

“Devastated” by news of the invasion

Following news of the invasion of Ukraine yesterday, Russian journalist Andrei Menshenin organised a protest outside the Russian Embassy in Reykjavík. Approximately 300 people were in attendance.

Speaking to Morgunblaðið before the rally, Andrei stated he knew he spoke for many Russians when he said he was “devastated” by news of the invasion.

“I’ve been in contact with my colleagues worldwide today, and they have the same story to tell,” Andrei remarked. “Everyone is devastated by this course of events and very saddened. Many Russians have posted a black profile picture on social media today to try to express how they feel and to show that they do not at all support this attack by Putin.”

Protests in Reykjavík
Photo by Golli

Additional protests on Sunday

Further protests of the invasion have been scheduled for Sunday.

As noted on a Facebook-page for the event – organised by Inga Minelgaite, professor at the University of Iceland’s School of Business: “There is no excuse for war in 2022. Standing up for peace is (the) responsibility of (each and) every (one) of us. Let’s meet for a peaceful protest to express our support to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.”

Protesters are encouraged to light candles and flashlights and display the colours of the Ukrainian flag in a show of solidarity.

The Icelandic government responds

In a statement yesterday, the offices of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir called on Russia to cease its military action and declared that the invasion was “a serious violation of international law.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir iterated the government’s unwavering support for Ukraine: “Iceland will continue its support for Ukraine, by taking full part in international sanctions. Iceland will respond to humanitarian needs by providing EUR 1 million for humanitarian support in Ukraine. This is in addition to a EUR 200,000 contribution to NATO’s Trust Fund for (the) Ukraine Professional Development Programme.”

As noted in the press release, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Russian Ambassador to emphasise Iceland’s position. The Ministry’s consular services were also in contact with 28 individuals in Ukraine, including 16 Icelandic nationals, stating that it would continue to “work closely” with the consular services of other Nordic countries.

Russian invasion
The Harpa Music and Conference Hall displayed the colours of the Ukranian flag yesterday.