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Blinken in Iceland for Climate Talks, Arctic Council Meeting


Icelandic Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland, May 18, 2021. (Saul Loeb/Pool via Reuters)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Reykjavik, Iceland, for talks on climate change and to take part in an Arctic Council ministerial meeting.

The State Department said in his meetings Tuesday with Icelandic President Gudni Johannesson and Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, Blinken would discuss “U.S.-Icelandic priorities related to climate change, human rights, bilateral cooperation, and the Arctic.”

His schedule Tuesday also includes a tour of a geothermal plant in Reykjavik.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia, April 16, 2021.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia, April 16, 2021.

On the sidelines of the Arctic Council ministerial meeting Wednesday, Blinken will hold his first face-to-face encounter with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The meeting comes at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and Russia and will set the stage for a planned summit next month between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The State Department said the meeting between Blinken and Lavrov is an opportunity to discuss building a “more predictable relationship with Russia” and “working on areas where we have mutual interests.”

A senior State Department official told reporters traveling with Blinken that the Biden administration has made progress in its relationship with Russia with respect to reaching an agreement to extend the START nuclear weapons treaty but that it has also faced areas of difficulties.

“We were able to do the extension of the important New START Treaty for five years right off the bat, but we also look at areas where Russia has behaved aggressively and undertaken malign efforts for which, as the president said, there will be a cost,” the official said.

The United States has recently been at odds with Russia over Moscow’s jailing of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, Russia’s buildup of military forces near Ukraine, and a cyberattack on the largest U.S. gas pipeline by hackers believed to be in Russia.

Russia says its government was not involved in the cyberattack. It has accused the United States of trying to interfere in its domestic issues, including the jailing of Navalny.

Before traveling to Iceland, Blinken was in Denmark, where he held talks about economic, security and climate issues, as well as the Biden administration’s ongoing push to boost ties with U.S. allies.

“Looking forward to deepening our partnership on mutual goals, including combating the climate crisis, enhancing defense cooperation, ensuring energy security and partnering in the Arctic,” Blinken said after meeting with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

After the meeting, Frederiksen said that the Biden administration is taking a different approach from the Trump administration.

“That means a desire for cooperation around the Arctic region, where changes are taking place,” she said.

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said, “Today, America is back. … And let me tell you, America has been missed.”

Blinken said the United States is determined “to reinvigorate its alliances and partnerships and also our engagement with international institutions.”

The Biden administration has renewed emphasis on international organizations, including rejoining the World Health Organization and the Paris climate agreement and reengaging with the United Nations Human Rights Council.