SALEKHARD, September 25 (Itar-Tass) - Russian President Vladimir Putin is participating in the Arctic Forum in Salekhard, the closest Russian town to the Polar circle, and will meet with Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson on the sidelines of the forum on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Salekhard airport was suspended for several hours over bad weather, as heavy snowfall hit the city, so, the Russian president had to spend the night in Nyagan before the departure for the Yamal-Nenets autonomous area. Putin and Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto were participating in a commissioning ceremony of the Nyagan power plant on Tuesday.
The Russian Geographical Society holds the 3rd international forum The Arctic - Territory of Dialogue in the town of Salekhard. Presidents of Finland and Iceland Sauli Niinisto and Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, Russian Defence Minister and head of the Russian Geographical Society Sergei Shoigu and other officials will arrive to participate in the forum, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters.
Environmental safety is the main theme of the current forum. Those present will discuss probable scenarios of climate change in the Arctic, the impact of its industrial development on the indigenous peoples and the environment, the elimination of the negative consequences of such activity of man, and legal regulation of environmental protection. The Salekhard forum participants are expected to exchange views on how to pool the efforts of the state authorities, the scientific community and businesses in the cause of conservation of the Arctic environment.
"The first International Arctic forum was held in Moscow in September 2010 and was devoted to the present-day problems of the Arctic. The second forum, which was held in Arkhangelsk in 2011, dealt with matters aimed at forming an Arctic transport system," Ushakov added.
The presidential aide recalled that earlier this year Putin had endorsed the strategy for the development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation for a period until 2020. "The Strategy is aimed at invigorating international cooperation in the region and conserving the Arctic as a zone of peace," Ushakov said.
The strategy "envisages the creation of favourable conditions for the economic development of the natural wealth of the region, the establishment, and widening of the use of transport arteries, including the Northern Sea Route,” the Russian presidential aide said.
At a meeting on the sidelines of the Arctic Forum Vladimir Putin and Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, who visited Russia twice in 2010 and 2011, plan to discuss topical issues of Russian-Icelandic cooperation, primarily in trade and economic sphere, as well as the approaches of the two countries in development of cooperation in the Arctic Region.
In 2012 the trade between the two countries made 211.9 million dollars. In the first half of 2013 the bilateral trade went up 15.6 percent against the same period in the previous year. Accrued Icelandic investment in Russian economy reached 15.2 million dollars. Ushakov noted that geothermal energy is a promising trend of cooperation with Iceland. The countries “are pondering the construction of power plants based on renewable energy sources in the Far East.”
The countries are implementing joint projects in the timber processing industry. Norvik Group has built a sawn wood factory in Syktyvkar, the capital city of the Komi Republic in northern Russia. The Icelandic pharmaceutical company Actavis has modernized and doubled the capacity of a medicine producing enterprise in Podolsk, Moscow Region.
“We are cooperating closely in the fisheries, particularly in international organizations,” Ushakov said. For instance, Iceland’s Raftakan launched a major fish-processing plant in the city of Murmansk, Northern Russia, investment in the project reached four million euro. The launch of direct fights from Reykjavik to St. Petersburg by the airline Icelandair on June 1, 2013, became an important step in broadening direct business, humanitarian and tourist ties.
Russia and Iceland are interested to develop transport communication lines in the Arctic, particularly for the development of the Northern Sea Route and broader scientific cooperation in such spheres as the research of climate and the maritime environment in the region, glaciology, volcanology and seismology.
In October 2013 Russia and Iceland will mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the countries. On September 26, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson will open an exhibition of Icelandic painter Kjarval at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg timed to the anniversary event. A sweeping cultural program is prepared to celebrate the remarkable date. The Virtuosos of Moscow chamber orchestra will give a gala concert in Iceland. The week of Russian films, an exhibition of Russian translations of Icelandic sagas, the cultural festival “Days of Yakutia” will be held in the country. The foreign ministries of the countries have prepared the joint collection of archive documents “The Soviet Union/Russia-Iceland. 1943-2008.”