WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The issues and concerns of the indigenous people of the Arctic region should be among top priorities of the Arctic Council, US Senator Lisa Murkowski, who represents the state of Alaska, told Sputnik on Wednesday.
"Making sure that the indigenous peoples who live throughout all of the Arctic, the four million people, their concerns are addressed is something that I hope will continue to be a high priority," Murkowski said.
Murkowski’s comments come several days before the Arctic Council ministerial meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, where the United States will conclude its two-year chairmanship by transferring it to Finland.
The senator noted that while the ministerial has its own agenda that the United States has been leading, she wants to make sure there is continued good discussion and focus on the people and the economies of the Arctic in addition to a scientific agreement the ministers have been working on.
"We know that following the Canadian leadership there was a great focus in that area that kind of lapsed a little bit under the US leadership. There was more focus on the environment and climate," Murkowski explained.
The ministerial is scheduled for May 11, and will be attended by minister-level representatives from the eight Arctic states, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
On Tuesday, the State Department announced that during his stay in Alaska, Tillerson will meet with US indigenous representatives to the Arctic Council.
The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum comprised of the eight Arctic nations: the United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, and Denmark.
Six international organizations representing Arctic Indigenous Peoples have permanent participant status. There are currently twelve non-Arctic observer nations.
The intergovernmental group aims to facilitate cooperation among the eight states and Arctic indigenous communities and focuses on sustainable development and environmental protection of the region.