Crisis over: Iceland set to focus on human rights, Palestinian cause

The wealthy nations are paying for the quality of their good life with the human rights of the people in the poor countries, Iceland has declared.

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly last week, Iceland's Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson called for greater gender equality, women's rights and measures to minimize the adverse effects of the climate change while he condemned Israel's continued oppression of the Palestinian people.

The Icelandic foreign minister said his country within a year had managed to recover from the financial crisis through tough measures and with the help from friendly nations. "We have swallowed the bitter medicine of fiscal cuts and radical financial reforms. We embarked on a close cooperation with the IMF. We have applied for membership of the European Union, on which the Icelandic people will decide in a referendum.

Iceland's Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson

"Well, the medicine worked. Iceland is pulling through. We are on the road to recovery." Mr. Skarphéðinsson said that he was proud to announce that the International Monetary Fund had declared that technically the recession in Iceland was over.

He said the crisis turned Iceland's focus on what really matters in life, the core-values of democracy and human rights.

"We have taken important steps to change the constitution to increase people's power. And we are proud of having legally ensured full equality of same-sex partnerships, and strongly urge other nations to remove all discrimination based on sexual orientation," he said.

Stressing the need to empower women and improve women's participation in peace and world affairs, Mr. Skarphéðinsson also referred to the Iranian woman who has been condemned to death by stoning.
"We have learned with utter sadness about the decision of Iranian courts to stone to death an Iranian woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. President Ahmadinejad, on behalf of the Icelandic people I ask you to spare Ashtiani."

On climate change, the Icelandic foreign minister said the looming dangers of climatic change had put human rights at stake. "Climate change will wreak havoc in the lives of a great number of people. It will erode what we as an international community have defined as their basic human rights.

He said the sea level rise, the recent floods in Pakistan and the melting of the Arctic ice are aggravated by the limitless use of fossil fuels that literally was tipping the delicate balance of nature. "We, the wealthy nations of the world, are therefore paying for the quality of our good life with the human rights of others."
Mr. Skarphéðinsson said human rights could not be debated without discussing the plight of the Palestinians and the people of Gaza.

"We now have the results of the experts, mandated by the Human Rights Council, who conclude that Israel broke international law by attacking the flotilla bringing humanitarian assistance to Gaza last spring.
"Iceland has strongly condemned the raid. It drew strong reaction from the Icelandic society at large.

"The Icelandic nation is deeply sympathetic towards the plight of the Palestinians, held in occupation, by an oppressing power. And as I speak, we have Icelandic humanitarian workers being held up in Israel, trying to bring prosthetic limbs to people in Gaza. People that urgently need assistance. This is not acceptable to Iceland. This is inhuman, unjust. We urge Israel not to prevent humanitarian assistance from reaching the needy in Gaza.

"Yesterday, we heard President Obama urge patience, but we also heard a hidden hope in his words.
"Well, sometimes the dreams come true. Sometimes the unexpected happens. Sometimes we even have miracles. We shall of course strongly support the resumed direct talks and let’s all hope and pray for a solution which will allow us, as soon as possible, to welcome the independent state of Palestine as the 193rd member of the UN family.

"In the meantime, all of us should use every possible, sensible way to demonstrate our solidarity to the people of Palestine. "Iceland was not afraid to stand up and be counted on, on behalf of the people in the Baltic States almost 20 years ago, when Iceland was the first country to break the ice and recognize their resumed independence. The same happened with regard to Croatia, Slovenia and later Montenegro.

"Today, we are not afraid to stand up for the Palestinian people either. Every nation has a duty to defend human rights. Every nation has a duty to speak up. That is not least true for Palestine, where human rights are broken, especially in Gaza, every day," Mr. Skarphéðinsson said.

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