Iceland and the United States will begin work on a memorandum of understanding for scientific cooperation on Arctic issues, following a meeting between Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs, Össur Skarphéðinsson and Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of State in Washington DC yesterday. Secretary Clinton expressed her support for a new agreement by the eight Arctic states on prevention, preparedness and response to oils spills, which is one of the key components in a new Arctic policy, approved by the Icelandic Parliament.
The Icelandic foreign minister said that Icelanders hoped to cooperate with other nations, including the United States, to build up an international centre for search and rescue in Iceland, in light of scientific data which showed that Arctic sea routes were opening up earlier than previously expected, due to the melting of the northern ice cap.
Secretary Clinton and Skarphéðinsson agreed that the Arctic Council should be the main forum for Arctic cooperation. Minister Skarphéðinsson strongly supported the view expressed by Secretary Clinton in Canada last year that the Arctic Council, rather than the so-called Arctic-Five, of which Iceland is not a part, should be the main forum for cooperation in the northern hemisphere.
The two ministers discussed US-Icelandic cooperation on defence and security and minister Skarphéðinsson requested strengthening of the cooperation on defence against terrorism as stated in the US-Icelandic defence agreement from 2006. Following the meeting with Secretary Clinton the foreign minister attended a briefing by US experts on the global terrorism threat.
The ministers also discussed the situation in the Arab world, Libya, Syria and the Palestinian issue, in light of the new agreement between the Fatah and Hamas movements. The ministers agreed that it was of utmost importance that the peace process in the Middle East was rekindled and that both sides showed willingness to reach an agreement. Secretary Clinton also briefed minister Skarphéðinsson on the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Icelandic and US institutions and companies have for the last few years cooperated in the field of geothermal energy. Secretary Clinton and the foreign minister expressed their interest in expanding and increasing this cooperation.