Iceland and Russia cement ties on two fronts

Two meetings yesterday put Icelandic-Russian relations in the spotlight: a meeting between both countries’ presidents near Moscow and a speech by the Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs at the NATO-Russia Council meeting in New York.

At a meeting with his Icelandic counterpart, Olafur Ragnar Grímsson, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he believes the time has come to intensify economic cooperation with Iceland. At his official residence outside Moscow, the Russian leader highlighted the importance of bilateral interaction in resolving regional issues, The Voice of Russia reported.

“We are jointly responsible for the Arctic, for the climate of the planet, we are responsible for our peoples, and it makes regular contacts necessary,” Medvedev said.

Olafur Ragnar Grímsson added that Iceland is willing to share expertise in the field of geothermal energy, referring to Russia’s Kamchatka region as a potential site for clean energy production. RUV reported that Medvedev is also enthusiastic to visit Iceland in the near future.

Meanwhile in New York, Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ossur Skarphedinsson said in his speech to the NATO-Russia Council: “Icelanders see Russia as a strong and peaceful neighbour, which we increasingly want to work with in the same way as our other neighbours in the region; not least in areas concerning the Arctic”.

A statement from his ministry explains that Skarphedinsson wishes to strongly encourage greater co-operation between NATO and Russia. He said that the alliance and Russia are not enemies – in fact, in many important areas they have exactly the same interests.

The minister added that Iceland is placing greater emphasis on co-operation with Russia than before, as areas of common interest are greater now than ever. The statement says that Skarphedinsson welcomes NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s commitment to greater partnership with Russia, saying that he has the full support of the Icelandic government, Visir.is reports.

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