This is the first time that Mrs. Gísladóttir is visiting Israel, after assuming office less than two months ago, and is intended to familiarize her with regional issues and Israeli problems.

Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Mrs. Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, leader of the Social Democratic Alliance, began a three-day visit today (16 July) as the guest of Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni.

This is the first time that Mrs. Gísladóttir is visiting Israel, after assuming office less than two months ago following the general elections that were held in May. The last visit to Israel of a foreign minister from Iceland was in 2002.

During her visit, the minister plans to have a working dinner with her Israeli counterpart, meet with the Deputy Minister of Defense and with a number of Knesset members, tour Israel’s northern border (adjoining Lebanon and Syria) as well as Sderot and its environs, and visit Yad Vashem.

Relations between Israel and Iceland, despite the distance and the lack of resident ambassadors, are warm, with a long tradition of friendship that goes back to the establishment of the state. The present visit is intended to familiarize the new minister with regional issues in general and Israeli problems in particular. Iceland’s interest in the area derives from the fact that it is a candidate for membership in the Security Council for 2009-2010. This visit gives the Icelandic minister the opportunity to study the various political, security and regional challenges that Israel faces daily.