Katrín Jakobsdóttir said her skipping a meeting with Mike Pence had "absolutely" nothing to do with politics

By Rachel DeSantis
August 22, 2019 05:53 PM
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Bernd von Jutrczenka/picture alliance via Getty; Matt Rourke/AP/Shutterstock

Iceland Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir will skip an upcoming visit from Vice President Mike Pence due to prior commitments out of the country, in a move she said is in no way related to the administration of President Donald Trump.

Jakosdottir is scheduled to give the keynote speech at the Council of Nordic Trade Unions’ annual meeting in Sweden on Sept. 3, according to the Associated Press.

Pence, meanwhile, will visit Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavík on Sept. 4, making him the first American vice president to visit the country since 1983.

Jakobsdóttir, 43, told Icelandic broadcaster RÚV that she squeezed the conference into her schedule “very long ago” and felt it important to attend because she had “made workplace matters a personal issue.”

“It is also a fact that this visit that was organized by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has been bouncing a lot around the calendar so that it has been very difficult to organize oneself around it,” she told RÚV on Wednesday.

Jakobsdóttir added that her skipping Pence’s meeting had “absolutely” nothing to do with politics — though her party, Left Green, opposes Iceland’s involvement in NATO and Pence is visiting in part to discuss NATO’s efforts to counter Russian aggression in the region.

Her decision to bypass the visit was made before President Trump opted to postpone a planned visit to Denmark after the country’s prime minister said it was “absurd” to entertain the idea of selling Greenland to the United States.

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Still, historian Thor Whitehead told the AP that the move was “unprecedented.”

“I doubt any other Western leader would decide to address a friendly conference abroad instead of welcoming a major foreign ally,” he said.

The AP also noted that Jakobsdóttir’s party supports progressive issues such as abortion and LGBTQ rights and climate change, in contrast with the Trump White House’s position on the same.

Pence, 60, announced last week that he would be traveling to Iceland, the United Kingdom and Ireland in September.

A statement from his office said his Iceland visit was to highlight the country’s “strategic importance in the Arctic, NATO’s efforts to counter Russian aggression in the region, and opportunities to expand mutual trade and investment.”

A spokeswoman for Pence did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.