Upcoming Arctic talks for Nordic presidents in Russia

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President of Iceland Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
Putin to meet Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and Sauli Niinistö.

The upcoming Arctic Forum in Arkhangelsk will be attended by the largest delegation of Nordic top-officials to Russia in modern history.

Two presidents, two foreign ministers, ambassadors, Arctic Council officials and a long list of others are traveling to Arkhangelsk. 800 foreigners are registered.

Iceland’s President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson will participate in a panel discussion together with Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, reports public broadcaster RÚV.

Norway and Denmark send their foreign ministers Børge Brende and Anders Samuelsen. The event in Arkhangelsk will be the first time since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea that the two countries’ foreign ministers travel to Russia.

Both Norway and Denmark froze high-level political talks with Russia after March 2014.

Since then, both countries have been looking for a possible thaw in relations with Moscow. While the Foreign Affairs Committee from the Danish Parliament last week visited both Murmansk and Moscow, the Norwegian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee decided to cancel a Moscow visit in February after it became known that two of their members were on Russia’s stop-list of Norwegians denied access.

The list is part of Russia’s counter measures after EU and Norway agreed on sanctioning Russia.

Optimism
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Kari Aga Myklebost is Professor in History and expert in Norwegian, Russian relations. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observe)

Professor Kari Aga Myklebost with UiT – Norway’s Arctic University is a specialist in Norwegian, Russian historical relations. She says the upcoming Arkhangelsk forum will be among the most top-level delegations ever in Nordic, Russian history.

«I certainly believe this visit is very important, especially these days with troubled political dialogue. Maybe the broad Nordic representations will give more weight to the Nordic views,» Kari Aga Myklebost says with optimism.

800 foreign participants
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Arkhangelsk is the largest city in the Barents Region and an important Arctic hub for Russia. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

The Arctic – Territory of Dialogue forum is to be held on March 29 – 30. The organizers expect more than 1,500 participants. 800 of those are foreigners from 14 countries, Arkhangelsk Governor Igor Orlov told at a press conference earlier this week, Region29 reports.

«Per tradition, Mr Putin will attend the forum and its plenary sessions. The president is expected to make a fairly long and substantive speech on Arctic matters,» Putin’s press spokesman Dmitry Peskov has told RIA Novosti.

Peskov says Putin will have bilateral talks with Iceland and Finland.

«Naturally, we expect that, in addition to taking part in the forum, the president will also hold separate bilaterall meetings with these guests – the leaders of Iceland and Finland.»

Nothing is said about possible separate bilateral meetings between president Putin and the foreign ministers of Norway and Denmark.

Brende and Samuelsen will have meetings with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

China

Additional to the Nordic presidents and ministers, China’s Wang Yang will come to the forum. Wang Yang is one of four Vice Premiers. China’s interest for the Arctic is growing. Arkhangelsk’s new deep water port last autumn signed an agreement of intent with the Beijing based Poly group on both the construction of the port and the Belkomur railway linking the sea with the Komi Republic.

Port, shipping, railways and other infrastructure investments are topics to be discussed among the participants in Arkhangelsk.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Freeze or thaw? What Freeland’s appointment means for Russia-Canada relations in the Arctic, Radio Canada International

Denmark:  Nordics to step up security cooperation on perceived Russian threat, Yle News

Norway: Norway’s foreign minister travels to Russia to assure Arctic relations, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Norway’s selective approach for cooperation is not tenable : Russia’s Oslo Embassy, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Swedish foreign minister to meet Russian counterpart, Radio Sweden

United States: Ice-Blog: Arctic Council – Business as usual with USA under Trump?, Deutsche Welle’s Iceblogger

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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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