In celebration of the Arctic Council’s 20th anniversary, a two-day round-table discussion is being held in Reykjavík and Akureyri. The program began in Reykjavík yesterday and concludes in Akureyri tonight. Members of the Arctic Council are the Nordic countries, Canada, the United States and Russia.
Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs Lilja Alfreðsdóttir was interviewed on RÚV radio this morning. She emphasized how important a forum the Arctic Council has become for Iceland and said the main aspect of cooperation between its member states is environmental issues. She mentioned that increased traffic in the Arctic brings along the risk of environmental accidents. In addition, there is increasing interest in the area’s natural resources.
When asked if threats in the region outnumber the opportunities, she answered, “It depends on how we approach the task, that is, if there is structure around the cooperation, there are opportunities. One thing we notice at the council is that the cooperation between the US and Russia is very good. We’ve talked about increased tension, but there, they somehow are on good terms, and it’s important for us to be at the table. This has become one of the most important international forums we participate in.”
Lilja spoke in Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, yesterday in favor of ratifying the Paris agreement on climate change. She expressed her pleasure with the unity about the matter among MPs and stated that awareness in Iceland of environmental issues has increased considerably in the past eight years.
At the round-table discussion in Akureyri today, a report on Iceland’s interest in the Arctic will be introduced.