Russia’s foreign minister heads to Finland, then Alaska

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
Arctic and regional cooperation will be on the agenda when Russia’s Foreign Minister visits Finland next week. A few days later, Fairbanks, Alaska is the destination.

Sergey Lavrov travels to Helsinki to meet Foreign Minister Timo Soini just days before Finland takes over the chair of Arctic Council from the United States.

“The Ministers will discuss bilateral matters between Finland and Russia and regional questions, including Arctic cooperation,” a press release from the Foreign Ministry of Finland reads.

Other topics of the Ministers’ discussions will include the situation in Ukraine, Syria and the Korean peninsula, security in the Baltic Sea region and other topical international questions, the ministry informs.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow on Thursday that the two ministers will continue their dialogue on current issues of the bilateral and regional agenda and exchange views on international affairs.

Finland’s ongoing dialogue with Russia
Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

The previous meeting between the Russian and Finnish foreign ministers took place in Moscow in June last year.

Finland has, unlike many other European countries, maintained a frequent political ministerial and presidential dialogue with Russia in the three years period after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The visit takes place on Thursday May 4, less than a week before Timo Soini travels to Fairbanks, Alaska for the Arctic Council meeting. Finland is set to chair the Arctic Council for the period 2017-2019.

In the later part of the chairmanship period, Finland aims to arrange for a Arctic Summit with state leaders from the eight Arctic nations.

Finland says it will have two main priorities when leading the Arctic Council; addressing the effects of climate change and fostering sustainable development.

Lavrov to Fairbanks

Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova could Thursday evening inform that Sergey Lavrov will participate at the Arctic Council ministerial meeting in Fairbanks on May 10-11, according to a tweet from the ministry.

Moscow has long been undecided about Lavrov’s participation at the Arctic Council meeting.

NATO – Finland

Last year, Sergey Lavrov urged Finland not to join NATO, saying such a move would provoke a Russian military response, The Moscow Times reported at the time.

“We don’t believe that our Finnish neighbors would be tempted to join in with anti-Russian activity,” Lavrov said.

Air Force exercise in the North
Norwegian P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft flying together with two F-16 fighter aircrafts. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

On May 22 to June 2 this year, the Air Force of Finland will together with Sweden and Norway, host the multinational Arctic Challenge Exercise.

More than one hundred aircrafts from eleven nations will participate in the exercise to be carried out over the northern areas of the host countries, Finnish Air Force has announced.

Fighter jet airports in Rovaniemi, Kallax (Luleå) and Bodø will play a central role in the exercise where also other NATO countries than Norway will participate.

“ACE 17 provides opportunity to train the large-scale planning and conducting of air operations in a real-like operating environment that involves a wide range of aircraft and forces of modern air warfare,” the announcement from the Finnish Air Force reads.

Lavrov will also meet with Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö during his May 4 visit.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s foreign affairs minister looks to thaw relations with Russia at Arctic summit, Radio Canada International

Denmark/Greenland:   Q&A: Impact assessments in the Arctic – What Canada and Greenland can learn from each other, Eye on the Arctic

FinlandFinnish government: New ministers named as cabinet grows, Yle News

Iceland: The Arctic Council at 20 – View from Iceland, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norway and Finland talk Arctic with China, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Moscow says NATO meeting in the Arctic is a provocation, The Independent Barents Observer

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

United States: Senior Arctic Official David Balton on what makes Arctic Council so unique (Part 1 of 2), blog by Heather Exner-Pirot

The Arctic Council chairmanship moves from the United States to Finland on May 11, 2017 in Fairbanks, Alaska. Eye on the Arctic’s Eilís Quinn along with EOTA media partners and contributors will be bringing you stories, interviews and analysis leading up to the handover.
Read our full coverage here!

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

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

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