Last week, Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson visited Vilnius at the invitation of the Lithuanian government to celebrate that Iceland was the first country to support Lithuania's independence 20 years ago. Iceland's parliament Althingi recognised the independence of Lithuania on 11 February 1991. During the visit Mr. Skarphedinsson met Dalia Grybauskaite, president of Lithuania and Audronius Azubalis, the Foreign Minister.
Relations between the two countries were discussed during the meetings, both within the cooperation framework of the Nordic countries and the Baltic States, and also at the European level. Lithuania expressed its firm support for Iceland's application for membership of the EU and its willingness to assist the Icelandic government in the negotiation process ahead. Lithuanians have shown repeatedly that they have not forgotten Iceland's recognition of their independence and on the occasion Lithuania's Foreign Minister presented a letter of thanks to Iceland for its support at the time.
During his visit Mr. Skarphedinsson addressed a conference on Lithuania's way to independence in the Lithuanian parliament. In his speech, Mr. Skarphedinsson discussed the events leading up to Iceland becoming the first nation to recognise that Lithuania's declaration of independence from 1922 was still valid, also declaring that diplomatic relations would be established between the two nations. This recognition by Iceland served to break the ice as other nations followed suit in the months thereafter and recognised the independence of the three Baltic States. During his trip to Vilnius, the Foreign Minister received not only a warm reception but a standing ovation following his speech at the Lithuanian parliament.
Mr. Skarphedinsson also met Vytautas Landbergis, the first head of state of Lithuania who played a leading role in the struggle for independence in 1990-1991.