Today’s meeting between the Russian Chair of the Arctic Council and Arctic Officials from the seven western Arctic nations marked the conclusion of the Russian Chairship and the beginning of the Norwegian one. A seemingly unanimous Council issued a joint statement after the meeting.
At the 13th Arctic Council meeting in Salekhard in Russian Siberia, as well as online, representatives of the eight Arctic States and six Indigenous Permanent Participants convened to conclude the two-year Russian Chairmanship and mark the beginning of the Norwegian Chairship for the next two years of 2023-2025.
All cooperation with Russia was stopped and the Councils work paused when Russia invaded Ukraine over a year ago.
No ministries of Foreign Affairs took part in the meeting, allthough Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sent a letter of invitation to Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt prior to the meeting. Senior Arctic Official Morten Høglund participated digitally on the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs behalf.
According to the statement from the Arctic Council, all eight countries acknowledges the commitment to work to safeguard and strengthen the Arctic Council. It further states that it recognizes the rights of Arctic Indigenous Peoples, their special relations to the Arctic and the importance of cross-border and people-to-people cooperation in the region.
The statement refers to the Arctic Council Senior Arctic Officials’ Report to Ministers adopted in Reykjavik in May 2021, the Reykjavik Ministerial Declaration and the Arctic Council Strategic Plan of 2021 – 2030, and recognizes that these documents will form the basis for continuing Council activities in 2023-2025.
Extremely important that we will manage to keep the council going.
The council writes that the statement was issued in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Arctic Council and in recognition of the objectives and commitments expressed in the Declaration on the Establishment of the Arctic Council and subsequent Ministerial Declarations.
Proof of life
The statement also marks the first update on the Arctic Council webpage since March 1, 2022.
After suspending cooperation with Russia in March 2022, the seven other member nations agreed to continue work that does not involve Russia’s participation.
In an earlier interview with High North News, Huitfeldt stated that it is extremely important that Norway will manage to keep the council going in some way, shape, or form.
"Although it is not possible to sit by the same table as Russia as before, there are major challenges that we must solve together."
Later today, Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Chairman of the Committee of Senior Officials of the Arctic Council Nikolay Korchunov will hold a press conference, sharing the results and key achievements of the Council over the past two years.
High North News will be back with more.