PRESIDENT JÓHANNESSON: So, Mr. Vice President Pence, welcome. Welcome to Iceland. It’s good to have you here. I hope you will enjoy your stay. And I hope that you will get a sense of how we value a strong and healthy relationship with the U.S., and that you will also get a sense of the values we cherish here: freedom, diversity, international cooperation, respect for each other.
I hope you get to enjoy Höfði House — this historic place. It has a rich history. I know — I promise I won’t, you know, go into any detail here, but there was a British envoy here who owned the place and sold it. He felt it was haunted. Then, of course, 1986, another spirit — a spirit of friendship, spirit of optimism — with the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting. And here we are now.
Also, in 1991, when the Soviet Union was collapsing and the representatives of the three Baltic nations — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — came here and signed agreements on diplomatic relations.
So a house with a monumental history. History is vital, history is powerful, but you are here to discuss the future — future relationship with Iceland, with meetings with the foreign minister and the prime minister.
And I wish you all the best in that and, again, that you will have a wonderful time here in Iceland, even though it’s brief. But you’re always welcome back. (Laughter.)
Again, thank you.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. Thank you to you and the First Lady for extending such a warm welcome to your beautiful country. This is our first visit to Iceland.
And allow me to express early congratulations on the 75th anniversary of Iceland’s independence. This will be a historic year. And the United States is proud to have been among the first nations —
PRESIDENT JÓHANNESSON: Indeed.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: — to recognize Iceland’s independence. And in all the years since, to have enjoyed such a strong economic relationship, a security relationship. Iceland is one of the founding members of NATO; it has an unbreakable bond with the United States of America.
And we’re truly grateful for your efforts, Mr. President, at strengthening that bond, whether it be the Secretary of State’s visit to Iceland earlier this year, your support of our efforts across the region, from a security prospective.
Nations like Russia and China are increasingly active across the Arctic region. And our alliance through NATO, our cooperation with Iceland to look after the interests of our nations in this region is absolutely essential. And we commend the Iceland Coast Guard. And we’re grateful. We’re grateful for the security cooperation and the presence of the U.S. forces in and out of Iceland as we, for both of our nations, provide for the common defense.
Thank you all, so especially, for meeting us here at such a historic place. In so many ways, Reykjavík and this very building, many believe, is where the unraveling of the Soviet Union began. A strong stand taken by another American President led ultimately to the collapse of Soviet communism, freedom in the world.
We celebrated the progress of freedom in Warsaw just a few days ago. And it’s altogether fitting and, frankly, humbling for me to be able to stand in this very same place and remember that extraordinary history — a history that freedom-loving people in America and Iceland and all over the world cherish.
And so, once again, Mr. President —
PRESIDENT JÓHANNESSON: Yeah.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: — thank you for such a warm welcome. I look forward to our discussion on a broad range of economic issues and security issues. And we look forward to continuing to build, in this historic year for Iceland, what is a strong and unbreakable bond between the people of the United States and the people of Iceland. Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT JÓHANNESSON: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you.
And you were right: This is where they sat. Gorbachev was over here; Reagan was over there. And —
AIDE: Would you guys like to sit there in the chairs?
PRESIDENT JÓHANNESSON: Sure. Do I —
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Yes.
PRESIDENT JÓHANNESSON: Shall I be Gorbachev? (Laughter.)
And the Arctic is over there, up north, where we have our common challenges. And we must try to avoid at all cost some kind of scramble for the Arctic, and we will work together there, and look back on history and look forward to the future.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Thank you, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT JÓHANNESSON: Thank you. All right.