Good afternoon everybody and thank you for coming to this press conference on the occasion of the visit of US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, to Iceland.
Iceland and the United States have for decades enjoyed a very close relationship – a true friendship.
75 years ago, in 1944, the United States was the first country to recognise the Republic of Iceland, which meant a lot during times of war and we still are grateful for.
In fact, the United States entered the front-line of World War II in Iceland six months prior to Pearl Harbour.
Our countries are bound together by common heritage but also principles and values, which continue to be tested as we, together, face different regional and global challenges – values that we need to uphold and protect.
The ocean also connects us and today we discussed our continued good co-operation in the Arctic as Iceland assumes the Chairmanship in the Arctic Council in May – where sustainable development and ocean affairs will feature prominently.
As geography changes in the High North and the Arctic becomes more accessible through alternative transportation routes, we need to enhance our co-operation even further, for example in fields like search and rescue.
Iceland and the United States share strategic interests and today we talked about the upcoming NATO Ministerial meeting in Washington in April, where we will celebrate 70 years of successful transatlantic cooperation.
Our bilateral defence co-operation, which is based on our 1951 Defence agreement, also stands on strong footing and continues to evolve as security conditions call for.
The decade-long presence of US armed forces in Iceland left a lasting cultural legacy – we eat, watch TV and do our business more like Americans than most other European nations.
In a sense, we are a transatlantic nation, which brings me to trade and our people-to-people connections.
The United States is Iceland´s largest bilateral trading partner, and US travellers are the single largest group of visitors to Iceland.
Last year some 700.000 US tourists visited Iceland, or twice the size of our population, reflecting the relationship and frequent flight connections between our countries.
There is, however, still unrealized potential for trade in our commercial relationship and, today, we decided to establish an Economic Dialogue between Iceland and the United States to advance our bilateral economic co-operation further.
The Economic Dialogue will include bilateral discussions between government officials, but also private sector with the goal of boosting bilateral trade, investment and, importantly, private sector ties.
Dear Secretary, dear Mike, thank you for a fruitful meeting and visiting Iceland. I look forward to the continued co-operation and friendship between Iceland and the United States.