Comment by the Information and Press Department on a working visit by Foreign Minister of Iceland Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson
On November 26, Foreign Minister of Iceland Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson will make a working visit to Moscow.
During the upcoming talks, the foreign ministers of Russia and Iceland will continue to discuss the topics that were on the agenda of a meeting they held on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland, on May 6, 2019.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson will discuss Russian-Icelandic relations and their future development, as well as possibilities for reinvigorating bilateral cooperation. They will also exchange views on current international and regional affairs.
In 2018, Russia and Iceland marked the 75th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, which were established on October 4, 1943. The foreign ministers exchanged messages of greetings in this connection.
Russia and Iceland have a common history of combating fascism. Russia is grateful to Iceland for its contribution to the Arctic convoys, which played a vital part in reinforcing the Soviet Union’s defensive and offensive capabilities during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.
Relations between Russia and Iceland have always been constructive and based on mutual understanding. However, their progressive development was hampered in 2014 when Reykjavik supported the anti-Russia stance taken by Brussels and Washington and curtailed some spheres of bilateral cooperation. Although Iceland is not an EU member state, it joined the anti-Russia sanctions. This has had a negative political effect and has seriously affected bilateral trade, which is not in the interests of Russia or Iceland.
Recent developments show that Iceland is rethinking its approaches and that it is ready to develop bilateral ties and cooperation in areas that are not affected by the sanctions.
Political dialogue at the top level has become more active in 2019. On April 10, President Vladimir Putin held talks with President of Iceland Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson on the sidelines of the International Arctic Forum The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue.
Ties between our parliaments are being revitalised. In October 2019, Speaker of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of Russia Vyacheslav Volodin had a meeting with Althing Speaker Steingrimur Johann Sigfusson during the European Conference of Presidents of Parliament. Steingrimur Johann Sigfusson has been invited to visit Russia in 2020.
The foreign ministries of Russia and Iceland maintain dialogue. In 2019, they had consultations at the levels of first deputy foreign ministers and directors of related departments on Arctic cooperation and the UN agenda.
Positive trends have grown ever stronger in bilateral trade which increased by 71.9 percent in January to September compared to 2018, reaching $50 million, which leaves room for improvement. The mechanism of Russian-Icelandic consultations on trade and economic cooperation is a useful format for improving the situation, since regular sessions within this framework were held even during the rough patches of bilateral relations. The next meeting is scheduled to take place in Reykjavik in the second quarter of 2020.
We welcome the establishment of the Icelandic-Russian Chamber of Commerce at the initiative of Iceland that took place last month. More than 30 Icelandic companies interested in conducting business on the Russian market have joined the chamber.
Our countries have very good prospects in terms of expanding cooperation in such areas as innovative technology, telecommunications, geothermal energy, shipbuilding, fish processing, aviation, dairy production and tourism.
Russian regions, including the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area, the Kamchatka Territory, the Chukotka Autonomous Area and the Murmansk Region, are consistently interested in scaling up cooperation with their Icelandic partners.
Cultural and humanitarian links are an important part of our bilateral relations. The Russian film week held annually in a number of Icelandic cities (the most recent one took place last September) enjoys popularity among audiences. The festival programme includes both new films and Russian cinema classics.
To mark the 75th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Russia and Iceland, on October 4, 2018, Russkiy Mir Foundation opened a library room at the Cultural and Spiritual Centre of the Russian-Speaking Compatriots in Reykjavik.
Our countries work closely together in the context of Iceland’s ongoing chairmanship in the Arctic Council (2019−2021) and the upcoming chairmanship of the Russian Federation (2021−2023). During Foreign Minister Thordarson’s visit, the ministers will sign a joint statement on ensuring continuity from one chairmanship to another within this organisation.
On our part, we are aiming for progressive and constructive development of bilateral relations based on pragmatism and mutual respect – and to the extent that our Icelandic partners see appropriate. We expect that in its approach to the collaboration with Russia, Reykjavik will be guided by its own national interests, without submitting to the influence of the momentary political situation.