Greenland PM on official visit to Iceland, oil and gas co-operation on the cards

The Greenlandic self-rule Prime Minister, Kuupik Kleist is on a three-day official visit to Iceland, which began yesterday.

Greenland hopes that oil reserves will be a helpful economic aid in the country’s eventual independence from Denmark and joint Greenlandic and Icelandic interests in the field are one of the main topics of discussion during Kleist’s visit.

Kuupik Kleist began his visit to Iceland with a meeting with Icelandic Minister of Foreign Affiars Ossur Skarhedinsson yesterday morning and a meeting in the afternoon with Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir at the Thingvellir national park, reports. The Greenlandic leader will also meet with the president and finance minister of Iceland.

The discovery of oil and gas along Greenland’s west coast last year has increased many Greenlanders’ desire for total independence and Kleist says that research indicates there is a lot of oil and gas still to be found. The valuable fossil fuels could see Greenland become financially independent; which would be an important stepping stone to political independence.

The Greenlandic self-rule government has decided that oil prospecting licences will be issued next year for the country’s east coast for the first time. Iceland is also hoping prospecting licences given out for the Dreki area will produce positive results. A long stretch of Greenland and Iceland’s exclusive economic zones directly adjoin each other and Kuupik Kleist believes it is therefore important that the two countries work co-operatively together in environmental issues relating to the oil industry.

Many in Iceland also feel that any oil drilling to the east of Greenland would directly affect Iceland, both environmentally and economically. East Greenland is very sparsely populated and Iceland is nearer and in easier reach than the larger population centres of western Greenland. Ossur Skarphedinsson told Visir that Iceland is ideally placed to service the industry and that in discussions with Greenlandic authorities, it is being emphasised that Greenland should look to Iceland for help in the area — an idea the Greenlanders are apparently warm to. It will largely fall to the oil companies themselves to decide which countries and businesses they rely on for services in east Greenland; but the Icelandic government says it is working to make Iceland the preferred choice.

(Main page photo: Anders Peter Amsnæs)