Iceland and Russia: communication cable, adoption, the Arctic and geothermal energy
Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson met yesterday with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow. The meeting was a part of the Foreign Minister's official visit to the Russian Federation. He also visited the headquarters of the Russian Chess Federation and spoke with its leaders regarding Icelandic views on international chess competitions. The Foreign Minister had earlier signed an agreement that facilitates trade in dairy products from Iceland to Russia.
Submarine communications cable
The Foreign Ministers spoke at length on the possibility of laying a submarine communications cable from Russia to Iceland. Foreign Minister Skarphéðinsson declared that Iceland aims to become a telecommunications hub in the High North. The Icelandic company Norline and the Russian company Polarnet are now developing joint plans to lay the cable and its representatives will meet later this week in Moscow. If an agreement is reached, a cable may be ready as soon as the end of 2013. Total investment in the cable project is roughly 150 million USD. The cable could greatly improve Russian communications and prove a backbone in the establishment of future data storage facilities in Iceland.
Adoptions to Iceland
At the meeting in Moscow, Foreign Minister Lavrov highlighted the willingness of Russian authorities to conclude an agreement on the adoption of children from Russia to Iceland. Foreign Minister Skarphéðinsson has in the past few months held detailed discussions with Russian authorities on the issue. The two Foreign Ministers agreed that government officials would meet in Moscow to discuss the matter at the earliest convenience. Mr Skarphéðinsson placed great emphasis on the need to conclude an agreement as soon as possible, as adopting from abroad has become increasingly difficult for Icelandic couples in the past few years.
Cooperation in the Arctic
The Foreign Ministers confirmed an agreement on cooperation on Arctic affairs. Iceland and Russia will continue to monitor the development of sea and air traffic in the region, with specific focus on Trans-Arctic sailing routes and the development of port infrastructure. The agreement outlines the development of academic links between institutions and universities in Iceland and Russia. Both nations declare their intention to further develop cooperation within the Arctic Council, and the need of the Council to ensure the safety of sailors when sea traffic in the Arctic increases. Both nations will encourage further international cooperation on environmental protection and pollution issues in the Arctic region. The declaration highlights the shared national interests of Iceland and the Russian Federation in the Arctic and calls for greater cooperation through fora such as the Arctic Council and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, as well as through bilateral meetings and agreements.
Cooperation on geothermal energy
The Foreign Ministers signed a Declaration of Modernisation in the area of labour affairs, which aims at cooperation between authorities and experts in Russia and Iceland on mutual modernisation projects. The goal is to increase trade, innovation, and science in the relations between the states. The two Foreign Ministers spoke at length about a joint task force between Iceland and Russia set up to modernise the renewable energy sector, not least in terms of the use of geothermal energy in the Kamchatka Peninsula, Krasnodar and elsewhere in Russia.
At the meeting the Foreign Ministers also discussed the development of tourism between the two nations, specifically the hopes of the establishment of direct flights between Iceland and Russia which could start within the next two years on the basis of a recently concluded aviation treaty. The meeting concluded with a discussion of international affairs, and Foreign Minister Skarphéðinsson informed his Russian counterpart of the draft resolution presented to Althingi, the Icelandic Parliament, on the recognition of the independence of Palestine, which was up for vote in Althingi at the time of the meeting of the Foreign Ministers.