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New international forum for Arctic cooperation

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson is member of the honorary board for the Arctic Circle. Photo: Trude Pettersen

Iceland’s President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson announces establishment of a new assembly for international cooperation on Arctic issues that can give non-Arctic countries like China, India and Singapore a forum for influence in the region.

Location

The assembly, called the Arctic Circle, will have its inaugural gathering in Reykjavik, Iceland in October. The formation of the Arctic Circle was announced by Iceland’s President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

The mission of the Arctic Circle is to convene a diverse group of stakeholders in an annual gathering to facilitate dialogue and build relationships to confront the Arctic’s greatest challenges. “We aim to strengthen the decision-making process by bringing together as many Arctic and international partners as possible under one large “open tent”, the forum’s web site reads.

China, India, Singapore and other countries far from the Arctic Circle could be part of this new forum to widen the discussion about the fate of the planet’s Far North Grimsson said according to Reuters.

Iceland on Monday became the first European country to sign a free trade agreement with China after six years of negotiations. A joint-statement notes the two sides want “to enhance their exchange and practical co-operation on the Arctic” and “further deepen their mutually beneficial co-operation in the fields of trade and investment.” The agreement will remove tariffs on most goods.

China is interested in gaining a foothold in the Arctic and hopes to become a permanent observer at the eight-nation Arctic Council next month. 

The Arctic Circle is a nonprofit and nonpartisan assembly. Organizations, forums, think tanks, corporations and public associations around the world are invited to hold meetings within the Arctic Circle platform without surrendering their institu­tional independence.

Initial members of the honorary board for the Arctic Circle are President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, special envoy to the Russian President on Arctic issues Artur Chilingarov, Former Prime Minister of Greenland Kuupik Kleist and United States senator from the State of Alaska Lisa Murkowski. An advisory board of business leaders, scientists and policymakers has also been established.