Arctic Military Activities to Remain Outside Arctic Council Agenda - Kerry

© REUTERS / Chris WattieU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference at the Arctic Council ministerial meeting in Iqaluit, Nunavut
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference at the Arctic Council ministerial meeting in Iqaluit, Nunavut - Sputnik International
John Kerry said that formal discussions of military activities in the Arctic will not be part of the Arctic Council agenda under the new US Chairmanship.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Formal discussions of military activities in the Arctic will not be part of the Arctic Council agenda under the new US Chairmanship, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a Friday press conference at the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting.

“I would suggest that for the moment I don’t see [military issues] on the agenda,” Secretary Kerry said. “To allow that to happen really could deter from the overall work of the [Arctic] Council itself,” he added.

In response to Russia’s increased military drills in the Arctic, various members of the Arctic Council have raised concerns over the militarization of the region.

The United States announced the Arctic Council agenda when it assumed the chairmanship on Friday. Kerry stated that Arctic Council cooperation should remain “a very functional process.” He continued, “I think it’s better to approach those other issues through the alternative fora,” like the G20, the United Nations or bilateral discussions.

US Secretary of State John Kerry - Sputnik International
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Kerry told the press that he raised US concerns about Russia’s military activities in the Arctic in discussions earlier in the week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He received assurance from Lavrov that Russia was intent on cooperating on the US Arctic Council agenda.

“[Lavrov] made it crystal clear to me that Russia wants the [Arctic] Council to be successful, that they want this to be a cooperative entity that is geared toward peaceful purposes,” Kerry explained.

The 1996 Ottawa Declaration, the Arctic Council’s founding document, states directly that the Council should not deal with matters related to military security.

Former Arctic Minister Leona Aglukkaq of Canada told the press on Friday that issues of Russian military exercises in the Arctic were only discussed informally by the Arctic Council Ministerial.

Russia has conducted several military drills in the Arctic in the past year. Moscow plans to create a network of naval facilities in the region for submarines and warships as part of the country's military strategy in order to enhance its defense capabilities in the region.

The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum which includes the eight Arctic nations and twelve observer nations.

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