Guðlaugur Thór Thórdarson, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development, and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, took an active part in the Arctic Circle assembly at Harpa in Reykjavík, which concluded last weekend.
The Foreign Minister joined two plenary sessions at the assembly. Firstly on the success of the Icelandic Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, which concluded last May, and secondly on the recommendations prioritized by the Greenland committee to increase cooperation between Iceland and Greenland in its report published earlier this year.
The Icelandic Ministry for Foreign affairs took part in organizing seven additional events at the assembly, including a panel on the work of the Arctic Council's Working Groups, and a seminar on the bilateral cooperation between Iceland and Norway on Arctic affairs on the occasion of the program's ten year anniversary.
"Arctic affairs have steadily been gaining prominence internationally as I have felt clearly during my five years as Minister for Foreign Affairs. At the beginning it was I who put them on the agenda of my meetings with foreign colleagues, while now, it is so that everyone is bringing up Arctic issues firsthand, regardless of the setting and topics under discussion," minister Guðlaugur Thór Thórdarson said in his speech before participating in a panel on the Success of the Icelandic Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.
A number of high-level officials attended the Arctic Circle in person and the Foreign Minister took the opportunity to meet with them bilaterally during their stay. Guðlaugur Thór Thórdarson met with Jeppe Kofod, the Foreign Minister of Denmark, Choi Jong-moon, the vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, Bárður á Steig Nielsen, the Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands, US Senators Lisa Murkowski and Sheldon Whitehouse, Virginijus Sinkevicius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, and Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland.
The difficult situation in Afghanistan, the Arctic Council Ministerial in Reykjavik, and the upcoming session of the Nordic Council in Copenhagen in addition to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) at the end of this month were among the topics discussed during the Foreign Minister's meeting with Jeppe Kofod.
COP26 was the key topic at the Minister's meeting with Nicola Sturgeon. Arctic matters and Iceland's Chairmanship of the Arctic Council were also discussed.
At the Foreign Minister's meeting with Virginijus Sinkevicius, various trade matters were at the top of the agenda, including improved market access for Icelandic fishery products as well as the EEA grants funding schemes.
The Foreign Ministry's new report on the bilateral relationship between Iceland the Faroe Islands was the main topic at the Minister's meeting with Bárður á Steig Nielsen.
The 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Korea and Iceland, multilateral cooperation and Arctic affairs were prominent during Thórdarson's meeting with Choi Jong-moo.
Arctic Affairs were the main topic for discussion during the Minister's meeting with US senators Lisa Murkowski and Sheldon Whitehouse.
The Foreign Minister also took the opportunity to meet with Marine Stewardship Council Chief Executive Rupert Howes to discuss sustainable fishing practices.