Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, and Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russia Federation, met in Moscow yesterday. The focus of their discussion was on the Arctic affairs and bilateral relations and trade. European security affairs and international affairs were also discussed.
This was the first time in eight years that an Icelandic Foreign Minister visits Moscow to meet with his counterpart. Thórdarson and Lavrov met in Rovaniemi in Finland last May when Iceland assumed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council and before that at an Arctic conference in the Russian city of Arkhangelsk in March 2017.
The Arctic was also the focus of yesterday‘s meeting, where the ministers signed a joint statement on ensuring continuity of Iceland‘s and Russia‘s chairmanships in the Arctic Council. Iceland will chair the Council until May 2021, when it hands the gavel over to Russia. The statement emphasises common goals and actions in the areas of sustainable development, climate change, biodiversity, marine affairs and the Council's internal work.
"I am pleased that we have signed a joint statement with the aim of ensuring continuity between the two chairmanships. The statement also manifests our determination to work together in a constructive manner on Arctic affairs. Sustainable development is at the heart of Iceland’s Arctic Council chairmanship. I sincerely hope that the Arctic continues to be a region of peace, stability and constructive cooperation," said Foreign Minister Thórdarson at a press conference after the meeting.
Bilateral trade was also discussed at the meeting between the two ministers. Icelandic fish exports to Russia came to halt in 2015 due to Russia’s restrictions of food imports from Western countries. Minister Thórdarson reiterated his disappointment over the restrictions, which have hit Icelandic exporters disproportionally hard. “Still there are also many positive developments. Icelandic hi-tech and innovation companies have been gaining ground in Russia, especially in the fisheries and agriculture sectors. There has also been a steady increase in numbers of Russian tourists visiting Iceland, whom we warmly welcome,” Thórdarson said at the press conference. “A clear indication of our growing trade relationship is the recent establishment of the Russian-Icelandic Chamber of Commerce confirms and the fact that I am accompanied with representatives of 19 Icelandic companies to Russia,” he added.