Comment by the Information and Press Department on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting
On May 11, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, the United States. Apart from the foreign ministers of Arctic Council member-countries, the meeting will involve delegations from Arctic indigenous ethnic groups’ organisations.
The Arctic Council is the most influential intergovernmental forum aiming to expand cooperation in the Arctic. It is the Arctic Council that formulates the regional agenda. Participants in the Fairbanks Ministerial Meeting are to decide on increasing the number of Arctic Council observers, whose current number is 32, including 12 observer states.
Plans for the upcoming Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting include signing an intergovernmental agreement on strengthening international Arctic scientific cooperation. The document will boost the efficiency of academic research about the Arctic. Russia and the United States co-chaired the negotiating process on drafting this document.
After the Ministerial Meeting, its participants will adopt a declaration in which all Arctic states will be expected to reaffirm their commitment to peace, stability and cooperation in the Arctic. They will also support specific initiatives aiming to further nature conservation cooperation, making the region more resilient and adaptable to the consequences of global climate change, as well as other initiatives.
The Arctic Council actively promotes the launching of new popular formats of international cooperation in the region. For example, the Arctic Coast Guard Forum was established in 2015 to help maintain regional security.
On September 19, 2016, the foreign ministers of Arctic states issued a joint statement in connection with the Arctic Council’s 20th anniversary and reaffirmed their commitment to broadening regional cooperation. This positive experience of establishing international cooperation can be applied successfully to other regions.
Russia has special interests in the Arctic region, where virtually all aspects of its national security are concentrated.
Major international players are now focusing on the Arctic more actively. This leads to rivalry and clashes of interests and ambitions of various countries, including those from beyond the Arctic region.
Russia invariably calls for resolving all contentious issues in a civilised manner, on the basis of international law and through talks, and it is ready to engage in joint work in the Arctic.
Russia views the Arctic as a territory of dialogue and cooperation and is determined to resolutely counter any attempts to bring tensions and a policy of confrontation to the region.
There are no irresolvable regional contradictions and issues calling for military solutions. Cooperation is the only way to guarantee prosperity in the Arctic. It is precisely this approach that drives Russia’s current actions in the Arctic.
We are interested in strengthening bilateral and multilateral international cooperation in the Arctic, primarily within the Arctic Council.
It is highly important that Arctic Council members are not divided into blocs, and that all decisions are adopted by consensus. This makes it possible to maintain sustained Arctic cooperation, which has been successful despite an unfavourable international situation.
The Arctic Council’s efforts largely prevented the degradation of the regional situation and made it possible to continue the policy of cooperation despite aggravated international relations. Not a single Arctic Council project has been terminated.
Russia will continue to help strengthen the authority of the Arctic Council in every way. It will also help expand the areas of its activity that should aim to achieve specific practical results. In this context, the Arctic Council Project Support Instrument (PSI) has a special role to play, with Russia being its main donor. The PSI helps implement environmental projects aiming to cut toxic emissions into the atmosphere, eliminate accumulated pollutants and introduce new industrial production processes. An overwhelming majority of these projects are implemented in Russia.
While continuing to pay close attention to environmental protection, it is important to promote economic cooperation in the Arctic. Without it, it would be impossible to guarantee the region’s sustainable development and to raise the quality of life in the Far North, including among local ethnic groups.
Russia has a vast economic agenda in the Arctic. It is therefore not surprising that Russia initiated the establishment of the Arctic Economic Council in 2014. This organisation is called on to help make the Arctic more attractive for investors and expand regional business contacts.
Russia views its neighbours in the region as its natural and high-priority partners in expanding international cooperation in the Arctic. However, we are also ready for close cooperation with other states, and we will welcome their constructive contribution to the region’s sustainable development.
Russia will continue to promote expanded mutually beneficial regional partnership in every possible way.