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NATO Secretary General Talks Defense in Iceland

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NATO Secretary General Talks Defense in Iceland

Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and Jens Stoltenberg.

Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson (left) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at yesterday’s press conference. Photo: Geir Ólafsson.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg came on his first official visit to Iceland since taking office yesterday. In a joint press conference with Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, he said he welcomes the recent announcement of increased defense cooperation between the Nordic countries in response to the growing military presence of Russia in the Arctic region. Russia has called the agreement “confrontational.”

“I think it’s good because it’s a way of pulling resources and getting more out of the investments we all make in defense. It increases our ability to have a strong military presence in the Nordic countries. So more exercising together, closer cooperation; it’s important to Iceland and it’s important to all the other Nordic countries,” Stoltenberg commented.

Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and Jens Stoltenberg.

From the press conference. Photo: Geir Ólafsson.

He added that the cooperation brings non-NATO members Sweden and Finland closer to the alliance, as RÚV reports. “It makes that partnership even more important and it contributes to more content and substance to our cooperation when we are expanding the Nordic defense cooperation.”

“Iceland is a highly evaluated member of the alliance. We have had excellent discussions today relating to many different challenges we face is an alliance in a changing environment,” Stoltenberg said of a meeting he had with Sigmundur prior to the press conference.

Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and Jens Stoltenberg.

From the press conference. Photo: Geir Ólafsson.

Stoltenberg also met with Icelandic Minister of Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson yesterday. They reviewed the status of security and defense issues, especially in the context of the new challenges NATO is facing because of the conflict in Ukraine and the advance of terrorist organization IS.

In related news, U.S. military jets on behalf of NATO have been patrolling Icelandic airspace since Monday. A total of 200 people will take part in the project in addition to the employees of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Center in Uedem, Germany, as reported by the Icelandic Coast Guard.

Approach exercises have taken place in Akureyri, North Iceland, and Egilsstaðir, East Iceland, since Wednesday and will conclude today. The project, which is organized by employees of the Icelandic Coast Guard and Keflavík Airport security zone, is scheduled to end in mid-May.

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