Arctic countries have pledged to fight global warming, which is occurring three times faster in the northern part of the earth than anywhere else, and to preserve peace in the region as its importance increases. geopolitics.
Accelerated global warming, untapped resources, new sea routes opened by sea ice removal and the future of local populations topped the agenda as foreign ministers bordering the Arctic met on Thursday. in Reykjavik, Iceland.
“We are committed to moving forward in a peaceful Arctic region where cooperation on climate, environment, science and security prevails,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Arctic Council counterparts. of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden.
“The Arctic as a region for strategic competition has caught the world’s attention,” but the “rule of law” must be ensured so that it remains a conflict-free region where countries act responsibly. ” , added.
The warming climate has opened up the Arctic to shipping, fishing, drilling and mining, and China, an observer of the Council, has not hidden its interest in the vast territory rich in natural resources and where the withdrawal of sea ice has opened new sea routes.
Meanwhile, Russia has strengthened its military presence in the Arctic – reopening and modernizing the bases abandoned since the collapse of the Soviet Union – and the United States has intensified naval exercises.
“It is important to expand the positive relations we have within the Arctic Council to include the military sphere as well,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told participants at the meeting.
“We stressed at the meeting that here we see no reason for the conflict. Even more so for any development of military programs of some blocs here,” Lavrov told reporters.
The Russian envoy also said his country supported the idea of hosting an Arctic nations summit during his two-year presidency of the Council.
Lavrov has also called for the resumption of regular meetings between cabinet heads of Council member countries.
The annual meetings between heads of the armed forces of the Arctic states were halted in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Russia has not participated in any other forum, the Arctic Security Forces Roundtable, since 2014.
The Arctic Council was created 25 years ago to address issues such as the environment and areas of international cooperation, and its mandate explicitly excludes military security.
Discussions focused largely on the effect of global warming on the region that was previously frozen.
“The climate crisis is our most serious long-term threat, as the Arctic is warming three times faster than anywhere else on the planet,” Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said.
The alarming data was part of a report released Thursday by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), which also warned of an increased risk of total sea ice disappearance from the region in the summer, before solidify in winter.
“We have a duty to strengthen our cooperation for the benefit of people living in the Arctic,” said Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod.
At the previous 2019 Council meeting in Finland, the Trump administration blocked the signing of a joint statement for the first time since the Council was created in 1996, as it refused to include climate change in the final statement.
The adoption of a joint statement on Thursday went smoothly, as did the agreement on a ten-year strategic plan for the first time in the Council’s history.
In addition to the countries bordering the Arctic, the Council also includes six organizations representing the indigenous peoples of the region and 13 observer countries.
Blinken ended his four-day tour, which began in Denmark, visiting Greenland directly, where he told reporters that the United States wanted its partnership with Greenland, a Danish territory, to be “even stronger” and that it could “confirm” the United States. I was no longer trying to buy it.