Russia’s Lavrov heads to Finland, Alaska for Arctic talks

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - April 27, 2017
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Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a joint news conference with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev following their meeting in Moscow, Russia April 4, 2017. (Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters)
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a joint news conference with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev following their meeting in Moscow, Russia April 4, 2017. (Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov travels to Helsinki to meet Foreign Minister Timo Soini just days before Finland takes over the chair of Arctic Council from the United States.

“The Ministers will discuss bilateral matters between Finland and Russia and regional questions, including Arctic cooperation,” a press release from the Foreign Ministry of Finland reads.

Other topics of the ministers’ discussions will include the situation in Ukraine, Syria and the Korean peninsula, security in the Baltic Sea region and other topical international questions, the ministry said.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow on Thursday that the two ministers will continue their dialogue on current issues of the bilateral and regional agenda and exchange views on international affairs.

The visit takes place on Thursday, May 4, less than a week before Timo Soini travels to Fairbanks, Alaska for the Arctic Council meeting. Finland is set to chair the Arctic Council for the period 2017-2019.

Finnish Prime Minister Timo Soini, leader of Finland's populist Finns Party for two decades, gives a press conference at the Helsinki International airport in Vantaa, Finland, on March 5, 2017. (Lehtikuva / Vesa Moilanen / via Reuters / File Photo)
Timo Soini gives a press conference at the Helsinki International airport in Vantaa, Finland, on March 5, 2017. (Lehtikuva / Vesa Moilanen / via Reuters / File Photo)

 

In the later part of the chairmanship period, Finland aims to arrange for a Arctic Summit with state leaders from the eight Arctic nations.

Finland says it will have two main priorities when leading the Arctic Council; addressing the effects of climate change and fostering sustainable development.

Lavrov to Fairbanks

Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova could Thursday evening inform that Sergey Lavrov will participate at the Arctic Council ministerial meeting in Fairbanks on May 10-11, according to a tweet from the ministry.

Last year, Sergey Lavrov urged Finland not to join NATO, saying such a move would provoke a Russian military response, The Moscow Times reported at the time.

“We don’t believe that our Finnish neighbors would be tempted to join in with anti-Russian activity,” Lavrov said.

Air Force exercise in north

On May 22 to June 2 this year, the Air Force of Finland will together with Sweden and Norway, host the multinational Arctic Challenge Exercise.

More than one hundred aircraft from 11 nations will participate in the exercise to be carried out over the northern areas of the host countries, Finnish Air Force has announced.

Fighter jet airports in Rovaniemi, Kallax (Luleå) and Bodø will play a central role in the exercise where also other NATO countries than Norway will participate.

“ACE 17 provides opportunity to train the large-scale planning and conducting of air operations in a real-like operating environment that involves a wide range of aircraft and forces of modern air warfare,” the announcement from the Finnish Air Force reads.

Lavrov will also meet with Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö during his May 4 visit.