Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir have both sent the nation’s condolences to Poland for the tragic loss of their president; but Icelandic Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson expressed the greatest personal sadness of all.
“This is awfully sad, and I am full of sympathy for the Polish nation in losing its president in this manner,” Ossur Skarphedinsson said on the death yesterday of Polish President Lech Kaczynski. 96 people are thought to have died in the plane crash yesterday in western Russia; among them the President and First Lady and many other top government officials including the head of the Polish military and the head of its central bank.
“I met the President several times and held two formal meetings with him. The first time was connected to the NATO summit in Strasbourg,” Skarphedinsson told Visir.is. “The second time I met with him along with the Icelandic president at the UN headquarters last September.”
The Icelandic FM told reporters that Kaczynski had been a controversial politician; but that his positive attitude towards Iceland had been almost unrivalled among heads of state. He apparently took a personal interest in Iceland and was always well-informed of current events.
“In September I discussed with him some very difficult issues, including the IMF and Icesave. He empathised with Iceland and understood our side well,” Skarphedinsson said.
The fact that Poland unilaterally decided to include itself in the Nordic loan package to Iceland came as a complete surprise and apparently had Kaczynski’s fingerprints all over it. “We in the Icelandic government first heard about the Polish loan through the foreign media,” Skarphedinsson admitted. It was also noted that Poland’s USD 200 million of the IMF-led loan package has never been tied to a resolution of the Icesave dispute.
Skarphedinsson also said that Kaczynski took a personal interest in the lives of Poles living in Iceland. He already knew that Polish people are the biggest foreign-born group in Iceland and had heard personal accounts of how welcome Poles had been made to feel in Iceland. He apparently thanked Skarphedinsson for Iceland’s positive treatment of its Polish minority at both official meetings and took pride in Skarphedinsson’s assertion that Poles had worked hard to make themselves an important part of Icelandic society.
“It is clear that Kaczynski was someone who really wanted to support us,” Skarphedinsson said.
The editors at IceNews would also like to offer their condolences to all Polish nationals living in the Nordic region.