ARKHANGELSK (Sputnik) — Representatives from 14 countries took part, including US and Swiss diplomats, foreign ministers from Norway and Denmark and the leaders of Finland, Iceland and Russia.
ARCTIC HEATS UP
Icelandic President Gudni Johannesson expressed concern over rising volumes of plastic waste in the world's oceans.
"Dear friends, we will not be able to survive eating plastic fish regardless of how advanced and developed we are. The threat of plastic waste is significant and will have an impact on marine inhabitants," he said.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said the Paris Agreement on climate change was insufficient to curb temperature change in the Arctic. Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed, stressing the need for all signatories to stick to their emissions curbs commitments sealed in 2015.
"Sauli correctly said that we must fulfill the Paris agreements. Russia intends to do this as well, just as we followed the Kyoto protocol. But, as Sauli said, the warming will continue and this is probably what is happening," Putin said.
The Finnish leader quipped that the Arctic's temperatures were the best remedy to cool the world's heated tempers.
The Arctic will again become the focus of international attention when the Arctic Council meets in Alaska in May.
Russia is one of eight Arctic countries that are members of the Arctic Council, which coordinates the activities of the eight Arctic states, also including Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the United States. The working group aims to provide information on the condition of the Arctic environment and the amount of contaminants present, as well as advise Arctic Council members on remedial and preventative actions. The United States, which currently chairs the forum, said it expected Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part. Russia said its level of participation was still being decided.
MORE THAN THE ARCTIC
Event participants stuck to Arctic issues most of the time, but US-Russian relations became a major tangent in Arkhangelsk.
"The Finnish president has already stated that events such as this should be well prepared and should be prepared by both sides. We will be glad to take part if this is the case… If not, then such a meeting could take place at the G20," Putin replied.
Both sides have a lot to address in terms of sorting out their relations, he added, stressing that the other side should also be willing to come to the table.
The Russian leader named counter-terrorism as one of the more apparent common ground issues especially given Trump's tough stance on the issue.
"The fact that Trump has stated such an objective makes it easier to work together. And we very much count on finally reaching such a level of cooperation," he said, pointing to a converging position on Syria as a positive indicator.
The president also noted significant differences still persisting in Russian-US relations. These included US missile defense systems in Alaska as well as continued US claims of Russian meddling in last year's US presidential elections.