Finnish president Niinistö to attend Arctic Forum in Russia

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto during the International Arctic Forum in Arkhangelsk on March 30, 2017. Niinistö will be traveling to St. Petersburg for the Arctic Forum in April. (Sergei Karpukhin/AFP/Getty Images)
The President was hoping to host an Arctic Summit in Finnish Lapland this winter, but will instead travel to Vladimir Putin’s high-level event near the end of Finland’s chairmanship period of the Arctic Council.

Asked by the Barents Observer, the President’s office in Helsinki now confirms participation in Russia’s Arctic Forum in St. Petersburg on April 9-10.

“President Niinistö will indeed participate in the Arctic Forum,” says Communication Specialist Riikka Hietajärvi.

“One particular reason for participating is that Finland is currently chairing the Arctic Council,” Hietajärvi elaborates.

Earlier this week, Norway’s Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide told the Barents Observer that both herself and Prime Minister Erna Solberg would be attending Arctic Forum. While Niinistö also participated in the last Arctic Forum in Arkhangelsk in 2017, the event in April will be Solberg’s first visit to Russia since the 2014-political freeze following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.

Was hoping for Finnish summit

In Arkhangelsk two years ago, President Niinistö suggested to invite state leaders for an Arctic Summit in Finland. “We believe it is time to take the Arctic cooperation to a new level. Finland proposes to convene an Arctic Summit to discuss a wide range of issues pertaining to the region and beyond,” the President said.

The event was supposed to happen in February this year, but it turned out to be difficult to get a ‘go’ from the two main attendees to such a Summit; President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump.

Climate change and a strategy to tackle black carbon are the main pressing issues on President Sauli Niinistö’s Arctic agenda.

Meeting in Arctic Finland

Although the state leaders of the eight Arctic nations did not team up for an Arctic Summit, the Foreign Ministers of the same nations will meet in Rovaniemi, northern Finland in May for the bi-annual Arctic Council Ministerial meeting. Here, Finland will hand over the chair of the Council to Iceland.

Arctic Council, originally initiated as the Rovaniemi process back in 1993, consists of all eight Arctic nations Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Greenland], Iceland, Canada and the United States. Additionally, a long list of observer countries and international organizations participate.

Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson is President of Iceland. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Iceland, and its President Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, has not officially said anything about bringing on Finland’s idea of arranging an Arctic Summit for state leaders. Reykjavik, however, has previously been the venue for a top-level meeting between Moscow and Washington D.C.

In 1986, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met in what later was said to be the key turning point in the Cold War.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada sends low-key delegation to 2017 Arctic forum in Russia, Radio Canada International

Finland: Arctic Council experts tackle black carbon risk posed by wildfires, Yle News

Iceland: Iceland talks Arctic, Trump’s ditching of climate accord, with U.S. Secretary of State, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: GPS jamming latest thorn in once-cordial relations between West and Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Cooperation with Russia in the Arctic makes sense; an Arctic Summit does not, Blog by Heather Exner-Pirot

Sweden: Arctic Sweden to welcome thousands of international troops for Northern Wind exercise, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Iceland, U.S. FMs talk Arctic security, defence cooperation at Washington meeting, Eye on the Arctic

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Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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