Hoppa yfir valmynd
Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Address to the Althing

Address to the Althing, November 6, 1997
H.E. Mr. Halldór Ásgrímsson,
Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade
(Unofficial translation)


Table of Contents
Organisation and Purpose of the Foreign Service
Nordic Co-operation
Europe
Security and Defence
The United Nations
Resources and the Law of the Sea
Development
Disarmament


Organisation and Purpose of the Foreign Service

Mr. Speaker,
The basic purpose of our Foreign Policy is to guard the interests of Iceland on the international arena in such diverse areas as politics, security, trade and culture. This effort is growing constantly in scope and complexity, to the point where it is now unavoidable to reinforce the Service in order to render it more capable of performing its role in a changed world. The reinforcement of the Foreign Service should be regarded as an investment in the future security and welfare of the Icelandic people within the international community. In light of this, a committee was designated last spring with the objective of determining by what means the Foreign Service can be rendered most capable of fulfilling its role. Among other things, the committee is expected to return recommendations on the order of priority of establishing new embassies in the coming years. The committee is scheduled to return its report at the end of the year.

In recent years, more and more states have chosen to utilise their embassies to greater purpose in the interests of export. This development has taken place in tandem with profound changes in the international trade environment, with increased freedom and a corresponding increase in competition. On the first of September, the Foreign Ministry launched a Trade Service, that has the task of assisting Icelandic enterprises to cope in this new environment. One important aspect of its services will be to reinforce the work of the Icelandic embassies in the area of trade. In addition, it is the intention of the Foreign Service to make still further use of the services of the Honorary Consuls of Iceland.

All of Iceland's embassies provide market assistance and services to enterprises. Trade representatives handle numerous tasks for Icelandic exporters, and it has become quite evident that there is much need for these services. Trade representatives have been employed for Paris and New York and trade representatives have been appointed in other embassies. In addition, employees have been hired locally in Moscow and Berlin to handle trade matters. The intention is to continue to develop and increase the activities of the Trade Service in the coming years.

Another aspect of the changed emphasis of Iceland's foreign trade policy is to increase relations with states which are enjoying stability and substantial growth, especially those states which are traditionally engaged in fisheries. Thus, official visits were made to Argentina and Chile last August. The mission included almost 30 representatives of Icelandic enterprises and interest groups. This is the largest trade delegation which has ever accompanied an Icelandic minister abroad.

There is some dispute as to whether relations should be maintained with states where human rights are abused. This may be a matter of opinion, but I feel relations with such states should not be excluded, for instance in seeking markets for our products. At the same time it is unavoidable to discuss human rights with the leaders of these countries, since human rights are not domestic issues but universal principles. As the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights says, "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."

It has been decided to place increased emphasis on the information and cultural activities of the Foreign Service. For this purpose, an information and cultural office was established in the Ministry on the first of August.

Information technology, and especially the Internet, is an excellent way to promote the country and people of Iceland as well as to create new opportunities for progress and trade. We know this from experience. The new technology also makes it easier for the general public to gain access to information about Iceland in the community of nations. The Foreign Service will make use of this medium to the fullest extent and has opened new website on the internet containing general information on foreign affairs, the Icelandic Development Agency and the text of the EEA agreement in its entirety.

The Foreign Service has made an effort to improve efficiency through increased computerisation. The Ministry has taken into use the so-called Government Document Management and Case Control System as well as other new computer software. Steps are being taken to introduce the same computer system in the embassies and permanent missions. The Foreign Ministry is the first ministry to fully utilize information technology and computers with all incoming and outgoing communications, whatever their original form. This is done, among other things, by scanning incoming communications into computers. This new approach improves the efficiency of the Foreign Service, which deals with over two thousand written communications each month.

Nordic Co-operation

Reasoned and active participation in Nordic co-operation is, as always, a basic component of Icelandic foreign policy. Under the organisational structure of the Nordic Council, Nordic Co-operation rests on three pillars: co-operation within the Nordic countries, co-operation on European affairs and Nordic co-operation with neighbouring regions. Our desire to strengthen Nordic co-operation is demonstrated by the recent and long-due decision of the Icelandic government to open an embassy in Helsinki. Finland, as we know, has had an embassy in Iceland since 1982. Another point worth noting is the co-operation of the Nordic countries in establishing a Nordic cultural centre in New York, where Iceland has taken the lead with a government decision on appropriating funds to the project. In European affairs, the Nordic countries co-operate closely on issues relating to the EU and on the basis of the Agreement on the European Economic Area. The membership of Finland and Sweden in the EU has not reduced their participation in Nordic co-operation and has in several areas given added focus to discussions and co-operation in European Union affairs. Thus, the Nordic co-operation can form a basis for initiatives on individual topics in a European context.

The Nordic countries emphasise the importance of co-ordinating their support and activities in the Baltic States, Northwestern Russia and the Arctic Region. Iceland has participated actively in the regional co-operation within the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) and in that way seeks to make its contribution to the promotion of economic and political stability in the Northeastern regions of Europe. The CBSS is growing in importance as a forum for consultation in the areas of economics, environment, human rights and the development of democratic institutions.

The Arctic Council was established just over a year ago, and its organisational framework is near completion. There only remains disagreement on the procedures for expelling non-governmental organisations which have been granted observer status in case they forego their rights through irresponsible actions. Icelanders and many other states have bitter experiences of the extremes of such organisations. Many of them are not democratically accountable for their actions, yet they command tremendous financial resources which are often misused for propaganda purposes. There is therefore no recourse but to terminate their observer status when a consensus no longer exists among the member states regarding their continued participation.

Europe

Relations with the European Union are in their proper course and the co-operation within the European Economic Area has progressed beyond expectations. There is no denying that the pressures and responsibilities of the three states remaining on the EFTA side of the EEA agreement are greater than before. Icelandic participation must be vigorous and active in the entire debate and decision making process. If the Icelandic authorities relax their efforts in this field, the role of Norway, as the largest EFTA state, will be proportionally greater. This could pose a risk to the multinational nature of the co-operation. The EU has upheld its commitments, but there is nevertheless reason to monitor closely whether its member states respect the positions of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein as full members of the inner market. No one will perform this surveillance for us, and the EEA Agreement is in a state of constant development, just like the European Union itself.

The biggest issues facing the European Union in the near future are the establishment of the European Monetary Union and the membership of new states. There is a growing consensus that there will be no retreat from the establishment of the Monetary Union. In May of next year it will become clear which states will participate. At the same time the rate of their currencies against the new currency, the Euro, will be announced.

In December of next year, a decision will be made on the procedure of the membership negotiations with the European Union. The Commission of the EU has proposed that the negotiations should begin with discussions with six states, with another five receiving continued assistance in their preparations for membership. The Commission has furthermore proposed the establishment of a common European forum for discussions on foreign affairs, which would include EU states and all applicant states. It should be kept in mind that membership of new states in the EU means automatic participation in the EEA. It is therefore important for Iceland and other EFTA states to follow closely the negotiation process. Ensuring this will be one of the main tasks of Iceland, which will accept the chairmanship of EFTA at the beginning of next year. Efforts will also be continued to promote the relations of EFTA with various states outside the EU, such as in Asia, South America and the Mediterranean.

The free movement of people is an important element in the EEA Agreement, but the agreement does not cover border passport control. Co-operation on this matter, however, has been active for some time among several European states under the provisions of the so-called Schengen Agreement. All the member states of the European Union, with the exception of the United Kingdom and Ireland, have now agreed on participation in Schengen, and Iceland and Norway concluded a co-operation agreement in December of last year. Abolition of passport control is dependent on participation in a computerised information system which calls for considerable preparations. The abolition of passport control cannot, therefore, be realised until the year 2000.

When an agreement was reached in Amsterdam among the EU member states to incorporate the Schengen co-operation into the European Union, it was specified that the Schengen co-operation agreements with Iceland and Norway should be honoured. These agreements will therefore continue to form the basis of the future co-operation between Iceland and the EU on the issues falling under the Schengen Agreement. However, since the Schengen co-operation was incorporated into the European Union, it will be necessary to conclude a special protocol or agreement. Negotiations on this issue among Iceland, Norway and the European Union will start this month.

The matter is not complicated in itself, and there should be no difficulties in concluding an agreement relatively quickly. The positions of Iceland and Norway are clear. It will be necessary to ensure full participation in all discussions on Schengen matters after they are incorporated into the EU, whose institutions (the European Court and Commission) cannot perform the same role for Iceland and Norway as they do for their member states. The new agreement will have to be an international agreement, just like the co-operation agreement. It is, however, nothing new that the wheels of the EU grind slowly. It has not yet been settled on what legal basis individual Schengen documents will be incorporated into the EU system. It is also unclear to what extent the United Kingdom and Ireland will participate in the co-operation. Although this is not directly related to the agreements with Iceland and Norway, it could cause delays. It is also unclear how long the ratification process of the Amsterdam Agreement will take.

The Nordic Passport Union has been successful. If an agreement had not been reached with Iceland and Norway on participation in the Schengen-co-operation, the Nordic Passport Union would have been history. Instead, it can be said that it has been extended and strengthened with Schengen in order to expedite still further the travels of the general public. At the same time, it entails greatly increased co-operation between public authorities on the surveillance of criminal activities, terrorist activities and the activities of any other parties bent on abusing the newly-obtained freedom.

This summer, a permanent Icelandic mission was established at the Council of Europe in order to underscore the importance we attach to its activities and prepare for the Icelandic chairmanship of the Council in just over one and a half years' time.

The cornerstone of the activities of the Council of Europe is the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as the strengthening of democratic processes in the Member States. Considering adaptation of the Central and Eastern European countries to western traditions of government, the Council of Europe has an enormously important role to play.

Iceland wholeheartedly supports the new structure of the European Court of Human Rights and emphasises the greater efficiency of the surveillance role of the Council of Europe in the field of human rights. It is important that the enlargement of the Council does not lead to weaker criteria in this area, as respect for human rights is an inseparable part of ensuring security and stability in Europe.

Security and Defence

Recent years have seen great upheavals in the security and defence affairs of Europe. Instead of the bipolar balance of power, a new security architecture is rapidly developing with different international organisations working together to ensure security and peace in the region. The clearest example is the co-operation of these organisations in Bosnia, where SFOR, the armed forces of NATO and its partners in Central and Eastern Europe are ensuring a secure environment so that other international institutions can attend to their reconstruction efforts on the basis of the Dayton Agreement.

Apart from NATO, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) plays the most important role in Bosnia. Among other things, the Organisation has been responsible for the preparation and monitoring of elections in the country, has promoted human rights and provided a forum for disarmament talks. Other organisations participating in these activities include the United Nations, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the European Union and the World Bank.

Iceland has contributed to the reconstruction work in Bosnia. Apart from its contribution of 1.7 million US dollars, an Icelandic medical team is working within SFOR under the operational command of the British armed forces. The Team is composed of two physicians and two nurses. Iceland has also contributed three police officers to the international police force of the United Nations.

It is of great importance for Iceland to participate in this co-operation and to accept its international responsibilities. Despite the lack of experience in the military aspects of peacekeeping, we are fully qualified to participate in such missions. These missions do not depend only on people who have received traditional military training, but also on people with expertise in other fields such as medicine and engineering. We have qualified people in these fields. The same applies to the police force. We may expect greater need for international police forces in the future and in that area we have excellent people.

NATO, which has undergone profound changes since the time of the cold war, is the cornerstone of the new security architecture for Europe. The military forces of the alliance have enabled it to take on a difficult peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina when no other international organisation been capable to establish and maintain peace. With the establishment of the Euro-Atlantic Co-operation Council and the reinforcement of the Partnership for Peace Programme, an opening has been created for the Partners to participate fully in the plans of NATO on peacekeeping and measures to establish peace.

The co-operation of NATO and the Western European Union has also developed in a positive manner. Substantial progress has been made in organising the framework for the co-operation of these two organisations in the event that the WEU is given access to NATO resources for peacekeeping purposes.

At the NATO Summit in Madrid last July, three states were invited to participate in membership talks. There was complete agreement among the sixteen member states on the enlargement despite differences regarding the number of states to be offered membership in the first round. The decision reached was consistent with the position of Iceland, that the first round of enlargement should be limited to as few states as possible while NATO should remain open to new member states.

I have emphasised the security interests of the Baltic states in the discussions on NATO enlargement and this was Iceland's firm position during the preparations for the Summit. The declaration of the Madrid Summit touched especially on the security interests of the Baltic states and maintained that the doors of the alliance would remain open. It is my hope that these states will make use of the opportunities available to them for co-operation with the alliance and its member states within Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Co-operation Council.

In light of this, I would like to reiterate that NATO's enlargement can not be looked at out of context with the new European security architecture. The states which will not become members of NATO in the near future are in one way or another members or associates of the organisations comprising the security architecture. Thus, all the states are members of the United Nations and the OSCE, which perform major roles in Europe's security. Most of the countries are already members of the Council of Europe. Others have applied for membership of the European Union and/or have taken up co-operation with the EU. There is, therefore, no state which stands alone outside the European security network; all the states are participants in one way or another.

With the strengthening of NATO's co-operation with Russia and the Ukraine, these states have direct access to consultation and co-operation with the alliance. The success of the co-operation with Russia within the framework of the alliance and in other international fora will have a decisive effect on the security architecture as a whole. We are faced with a unique opportunity to entrench security in Europe and we must utilise it to the fullest possible extent.

There is no doubt that the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe plays a key role in the securing of peace and security in Europe. This organisation, to which all the states of Europe as well as the United States and Canada are parties, has enjoyed a growing status(?) in recent years. As I mentioned before, the OSCE has played an important role in Bosnia. The work of the OSCE delegation was instrumental in preventing civil war in Albania. OSCE delegations have also been important in gaining respect for democratic traditions of government, for instance in Serbia and Croatia, and they have led the way in resolving local conflicts, as in Cechnya and Nagorno-Karabakh. In light of the growing importance of the OSCE for security in Europe, especially in fields where we have much to offer, as in the area of human rights and democratic reconstruction, I believe it is of great importance to open once more a permanent Icelandic mission at the OSCE in Vienna. All 55 member states are represented in Vienna with the exception of Iceland and Andorra.

The risk of a major war in Europe has become quite distant, and Iceland faces no direct military threats. Nevertheless, there are enough uncertainties in the security of Europe so that Iceland will have to maintain credible defences. It is no secret that we are under constant pressures from our defence partner to reduce expenses because of the base. Much progress has been made on reducing expenses in co-operation with the defence forces. Most important in this context is that in the recent past, public procurement has been adopted in most of the construction work of the defence forces as well as purchases of goods and services. To a large extent, business with the defence forces is currently governed by the rules of free market economy.

The debate on defence in Iceland has often revolved around employment, operation of the air terminal and contracting rather than the actual security interests of the country. These aspects are important, of course because of their economic impact, but they must not become the main issues of the defence debate.

I therefore believe it is necessary to start work immediately on assessing our defence needs for the long term. Three things must be borne in mind in this context: first, to ensure continued credible defences for Iceland; second, to increase Iceland's own contributions to its security and the common security of our allies through vigorous participation in peace co-operation and peacekeeping; third, to take a responsible part in the formation of a new security architecture for Europe through more systematic participation in NATO, the Partnership for Peace, the OSCE and the WEU. We will not offer military forces or substantial financial contributions, but first and foremost contribute from our long experience in the field of humanitarian matters and the construction of democratic institutes. In those areas we have an important contribution to make.

We have already made significant contributions. The most prominent was the civil defence exercise "Co-operative Safeguard 97", which was conducted in Iceland last summer. Units from 20 states gathered in Iceland to conduct an exercise in major disaster relief. The reaction to the exercise abroad has been very positive. It has especially been pointed out that the management of the exercise was very successful; this was the first time that an exercise within the Partnership for Peace has been conducted under civilian command. I would like to extend my special gratitude to the National Civil Defence and the numerous rescue units who took part in the exercise for their important contribution. At the same time, I believe another exercise should be planned for the near future, with the emphasis on ensuring public safety in the struggle with the forces of nature. One possibility would be to conduct an exercise in co-ordination with the rescue operations of the nations of the Northern Atlantic Ocean.

Determined efforts have been made to solve the long-standing financial problems of the Leif Eiriksson Air Terminal in Keflavik through the reorganisation of its operations and services. Business practices in the terminal have been modernised, and with increased services and tenders it now seems that it will be possible to halt the terminal's accumulation of debts and begin servicing the debts. Not everyone is happy, but we must all be in agreement that the accumulation of debt had to be stopped, and this has now been done.

These measures are crucial for any plans to enlarge the terminal; in light of increasing traffic and the ambitious future plans of airline operators and the entire tourist industry in general, it is clear that we can no longer postpone decisions on the enlargement.

The United Nations

More and more global problems are of such a nature that they can only be solved through the combined efforts of the greatest number of countries possible. For this reason, the importance of the United Nations, like that of other international organisations, has been growing.

In recent years, the member states of the United Nations have tried to reach a consensus on extensive changes to prepare the organisation for coping with the demanding problems that we will face at the dawn of the new century. Shortly after Kofi Annan took over as Secretary General at the beginning of the year, he announced that he would give reorganisation top priority. For this purpose, he submitted extensive proposals last July, where he attempted to reach a compromise on realistic measures. In the course of my meeting with Mr. Annan during his visit to Iceland in early September, I informed him of Iceland's firm support for the reorganisation work.

It is important for the reorganisation to be successful and for the management of the organisation to be modernised. It is also important that all the member states pay their mandatory contributions promptly and in full, without conditions. It must also be ensured that the reorganisation does not have the result of reducing the capacity of the organisation but rather of enhancing its scope and efficiency. Iceland supports proposals for increasing the number of permanent and temporary seats in the Security Council in order to reflect the increased number of member states and the changed circumstances in the world. On the other hand, the ability of the Council to make decisions and take action must not be impaired.

At the beginning of this year, Iceland took a seat in the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) for the term of 1997-1999. At the annual meeting of the Council last summer, Iceland participated in the discussions on development, human rights, new energy sources and the affairs of the United Nations University. Non-governmental organisations and other parties were consulted regarding the positions taken at the annual meeting.

The United Nations have performed extremely important work in the area of human rights, especially through the conclusion international agreements. In my speech to the General Assembly, I had the opportunity of recalling the necessity of improving the situation of women, but attention must also be given to other disadvantaged groups such as children. We must ensure that the discussion and attention to human rights are not reduced. The struggle to preserve the environment is steadily gaining more support, which is a good thing. However, the discussion on the environment protection must not take place at the cost of human rights, rather as a part of the debate on human rights. These two issues are intertwined and it is in fact in the nature of human rights that they are an inseparable component of almost any issue, whether it is security, trade, development or the environment.

It is a matter for concern how environmentalists have managed to convince the public in the industrial countries to muster themselves in opposition to any sort of utilisation of marine mammals and various other species which are not endangered. I believe that we have more and more in common with the developing countries in these matters. The way in which these matters are handled will in the future affect the livelihood of many nations. The industrialised countries must not be allowed to turn the countries which depend on natural resources into some sort of national parks.

It was a matter of great satisfaction that the Secretary General of the United Nations should visit Iceland last autumn, as it presented me with an opportunity to discuss with him the affairs of the United Nations and the interests of Iceland. I emphasised the importance of natural resources for the nations of the world, especially the importance of the biological resources of the sea for Iceland and the recent agreement with the United Nations University on the establishment of a UN Fisheries Training Programme in Iceland.

The United Nations have proven the only forum of all the nations of the world where it has been possible to make progress in environmental protection while at the same time protecting the rights of nations to utilise the living resources of the sea in a sensible manner. Vigorous protection of our interests in this area is imperative. Icelandic authorities have now appointed a committee to attend to Iceland's contribution to the United Nations "Year of the Ocean" in 1998.

Iceland's participation in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is under consideration. Iceland participated in the annual meeting of the member states of the Convention last summer, and emphasised regional solutions to problems regarding the sustainable development of living resources. It is necessary to promote sensible international debate on these matters and I have warned against giving in to pressures of irresponsible protection organisations which refuse to recognise the connection between the protection of the environment and the utilisation of resources.

At the conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climatic Change, which will be held in Kyoto in Japan next December, an attempt will be made to conclude a protocol to the Convention providing for binding limits on the release of greenhouse gasses in individual member states. In the negotiating sessions held in preparation for the conference, numerous different proposals have been submitted, and no consensus is in sight. Iceland has emphasised the following: that the protocol must include all greenhouse gasses; that the binding of carbons, e.g. revegetation and reforestation, should be given equal consideration with measures to reduce the release of greenhouse gases; that the commitments should be on a per capita basis to take into account the population changes in individual states; and that consideration should be given to the special circumstances of individual states, as in the case of Iceland which to a large extend meets its energy needs through renewable energy sources. On the part of Iceland, it is strongly emphasised that new commitments should not limit the possibilities for member states to utilise renewable energy sources which do not result in the release of greenhouse gases. Such commitments are contrary to the goals being sought and moreover, they are an obstacle to economic progress based on sustainable development.

Resources and the Law of the Sea

Last summer, an agreement was reached between Iceland on one hand and Denmark and Greenland on the other regarding the delimitation of the disputed ocean area north of the island Kolbeinsey. The agreement entails a recognition of the full effect of the island of Grímsey in the delimitation, and the area in dispute as a result of the status of Kolbeinsey is divided so that Iceland retains 30% while Greenland retains 70%. This must be regarded as an acceptable conclusion, as it was the opinion of Icelandic authorities, based on the opinions of Icelandic and foreign experts in this field, that we could not expect a more favourable decision before the courts. Within the next few days, the formal agreement between the parties will be finalised. No agreement has yet been reached on the delimitation of the ocean area between Iceland and the Faroe Islands, but negotiations will continue.

As you know, an agreement was concluded last December between Iceland, the Faeroe Islands, Norway, Russia and the European Union on fisheries from the Norwegian-Icelandic herring stock this year. At the same time, an agreement on the control of fisheries from the stock outside state jurisdictions, i.e. in the so-called herring loophole, was concluded at an extraordinary meeting of NEAFC. Thus, for the first time, control was established over the fisheries of all the countries which have engaged in fisheries from the stock. In late October, an agreement was concluded for the fishing season of 1998 with the same proportional division as before but with a 13.2% reduction of the total catch. In coming to this decision, account was taken of the advice of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). Iceland's share will amount to 202,000 tons.

The termination has been announced of the Capelin Fisheries Agreement between Iceland, Greenland and Norway, which has been in effect since 1994 and will remain in effect until April of next year. The termination of the agreement at this point in time has the purpose of correcting Iceland's share, as several of the premises of the agreement no longer apply, such as the distribution of the stock. It is the desire of the Government to maintain friendly relations with Greenland and Norway on the control of the capelin fisheries, and negotiations on a new Capelin Fisheries Agreement are scheduled for the coming weeks.

There are numerous difficult problems ahead in the field of fisheries. Nevertheless, there is good reason for optimism as the understanding of the need for international co-operation in this area is growing.
It is important to bear in mind that good results will only be achieved through co-operation. The draft agreement between Iceland and Russia of last August regarding co-operation in the field of research, fisheries and trade in fisheries products bears pleasurable witness to future co-operation between neighbours, which will benefit both in the long term.

Development

The Icelandic Development Agency is doing important work in the countries with which it is co-operating, such as Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi and the Cape Verde Islands. The government recently came to an agreement which will lead to increased activities of ICEIDA as early as next year and facilitate long-term planning regarding project selection. Today, the Agency is allocated 172 million Icelandic krónur, but 250-300 million are projected for the year 2000 and 400-500 million for 2003.

Iceland now holds the chairmanship, on behalf of the Nordic Countries and the Baltic States, in the Development Committee of the World Bank, which prepares the policy of the Bank in development affairs. At a meeting of the Committee in Hong Kong last autumn, I emphasised that the problems of the developing countries most deeply in debt must be solved and expressed the full support of the Nordic Countries and Baltic States for the initiative of the Bank in this matter. I welcomed the new emphasis of the Bank on the battle against corruption and for improved government. I also expressed support for a special effort by the bank to increase investment by private entities in energy, transport and communications in the developing countries.

Disarmament

The major issue in disarmament in the second half of this year is undoubtedly the positive development in the battle against land mines. The most recent development was the Oslo conference, where a draft agreement on a total ban on land mines was approved by representatives of almost 90 states, including Iceland. The Icelandic government regards this as a humanitarian issue, as the clearing of land mines is one of the most difficult and expensive projects connected with the reconstruction of societies following armed conflict. Iceland will of course sign the land mine convention in Ottawa in early December and thereby take on the responsibilities conferred by the agreement on the member states to eliminate this peril.

Mr. Speaker,
In the short time at my disposal, I have touched on the most important events of Icelandic foreign affairs and attempted to outline Iceland}s foreign policy in broad terms. This is, however, a very vast area, so that this discourse can by no means be regarded as an exhaustive coverage.

There is work to be done everywhere in the field of foreign affairs, projects which have a bearing on our national interests in every area. They are also woven into the destinies of other nations for whom we should be concerned. The struggle against poverty, hunger, discrimination, violence and all forms of suffering will never be conducted with any success without the solidarity of nations and we will never be successful in our own struggles unless we understand the circumstances of others.

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