Blinken Begins Diplomatic Trip Focused On Future Of Arctic

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken  

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to hold talks with Danish leaders on May 17 on the first stop of a diplomatic tour that includes a meeting in Iceland of the Arctic Council and Blinken’s first face-to-face meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov since U.S. President Joe Biden took office.

Blinken is due to meet Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod in Copenhagen to discuss “combating the climate crisis" and "shared interest in strengthening the transatlantic relationship,” the State Department said.

Blinken will stress the U.S. commitment to green technology and preserving environmental stability in the Arctic with the Danish leaders, the department said in a statement.

After those talks, he plans to travel on May 17 to Iceland for meetings with President Gudni Johannesson, Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, and Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thordarson ahead of a meeting of the eight-member Arctic Council in Reykjavik beginning May 19.

State Department spokesman Ned Price says Blinken will “advance efforts to sustain the Arctic as a region of peace, free of conflict, where Arctic Council members collaborate on shared priorities to protect the well-being of Arctic communities and address the ever-growing threat and impacts of the climate crisis.”

The meeting with Lavrov is scheduled to take place on May 20. The Russian Foreign Ministry says the two will discuss "key issues of mutual relations and the international agenda."

A U.S. intelligence report in April said Moscow is looking to increase its economic and military footprint in the Arctic, taking advantage of global warming’s impact on the vast northern region.

Blinken and Lavrov will test the Biden administration’s proposition of working on areas where Washington and Moscow have mutual interests, a senior State Department official told reporters en route to Copenhagen.

“We’ve made very clear from the first day of the administration that we seek a more stable relationship, a more predictable relationship with Russia,” the official said.

The meeting comes amid ongoing tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russia’s military buildup in and around Ukraine, Russian meddling in U.S. elections, and recent cyberattacks blamed on cybercriminals in Russia, and the official indicated that those matters would be addressed.

“We’re not going to stand idly by,” he said.

At the end of his trip, Blinken plans to stop in Greenland to meet with the new head of government, Mute Bourup Egede.

The two are expected to discuss their countries’ shared commitment to increased cooperation in the Arctic.

With reporting by AFP and AP

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