5 Mar 2022 09:19

Suspension of member countries' participation in Arctic Council to inevitably increase security risks, challenges - Russian Foreign Ministry

MOSCOW. March 5 (Interfax) - The decision of seven member states of the Arctic Council to suspend participation in the Arctic Council's formal events will lead to an increase in security challenges in the region, and Russia will seek to minimize the negative implications from this decision, Russian Foreign Ministry Ambassador at Large, Russian Senior Official in the Arctic Council Nikolai Korchunov said.

"The temporary freeze on participation in the Arctic Council, which has been declared by the other member states, will inevitably lead to an increase in risks and challenges to soft security in the region, which the Arctic Council has been effectively dealing with," Korchunov told Interfax.

Under these circumstances, "it is crucial to preserve Arctic Council projects so that cooperation could continue when the situation allows that and so that no harm be done to those depending on these projects," he said.

"We will seek to minimize possible negative consequences of the suspension of cooperation," Korchunov said.

Over 25 years of its existence, the Arctic Council has been serving as a platform for de-politicized dialogue, he said, adding that the organization's jurisdiction excluded military security issues.

"The founding and strategic documents of the Council affirm the need to preserve the Arctic as a territory of peace, stability and constructive cooperation. So, it is important to protect the unique interaction format from bringing in extra-regional topics and from becoming their hostage," Korchunov said.

Russia accounts for almost a third of the Arctic territory, over half of the Arctic population, and about 70% of economic operations conducted in the Arctic region, and "there is no alternative to its sustainable development" for Moscow, he said.

During the period of "frozen" interaction with the other member states of the Arctic Council, Russia will refocus its Arctic Council presidency on national development tasks of its northern territories, Korchunov said.

It is planned to hold every event scheduled by the Russian presidency, except for formal meetings of the Arctic Council and its subsidiary bodies, as planned, he said.

Seven member states of the Arctic Council (Denmark, Iceland, Canada, Norway, the United States, Finland and Sweden) officially informed Moscow on March 3 that they were suspending the participation of their representatives in all formal events of the Arctic Council and its subsidiary bodies, due to the Ukraine situation.