President Karis in Iceland: Small countries can join forces to aid Ukraine

Alar Karis and Guðni Jóhannesson in Reykjavik, Thursday, October 13 2022.
Alar Karis and Guðni Jóhannesson in Reykjavik, Thursday, October 13 2022. Source: Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia

Iceland is playing a key role both in aiding Ukraine in its fight against Russian invaders, and in safeguarding the future of the Arctic region, an area close to Estonians' hearts too, President Alar Karis says.

The president made his remarks while on an official visit to Iceland Thursday, where he met with that country's leadership and addressed an Arctic Circle assembly meeting in Reykjavik.

Speaking after a meeting with his Icelandic counterpart, Guðni Jóhannesson, Karis said: "Recent attacks on infrastructure facilities in our region have forced us to be even more attentive to possible hybrid threats than was the case before, though the increasingly effective cooperation of states is helping to mitigate these risks."

The kangaroo referenda and large-scale missile attacks on Ukrainian cities which Russia has recently conducted point to its desire to escalate the conflict, hence the need for western sanctions to continue for as long as possible, President Karis said, while the Estonian head of state also thanked the Icelandic people for an initiative which has seen warm clothing, including knitted woolen socks, and other equipment needed to get through the winter being sent to Ukrainian forces.

Speaking later at an Arctic Circle assembly meeting, Karis stressed the need to keep the Arctic a region free of tension, where international law is considered paramount and where development is determined by a peaceful scientific outlook, notwithstanding a Russian declaration of its "right" to gain full control over both existing and new maritime transport routes that are emerging in the Arctic due to climate change

President Karis also presented Estonia's opportunities in shaping the future of the Arctic, noting that new technologies offer opportunities for sparsely populated areas. 

"The core of Estonia's digital society has been the provision of necessary services even to the residents in the most remote areas. In the same way, we could even offer digital learning opportunities, digital patient platforms, and various participatory democratic solutions to remote communities in the Arctic," Karis said, per a president's office press release.

That the voice of indigenous peoples in the Arctic region be heard is also essential

"We do not connect the fate of the Arctic with our economic interests or geopolitics, unlike some major powers," Karis said.

"Instead, we can give our assurance that the Arctic is in our genetic makeup, while our Finno-Ugric roots connect us with indigenous peoples in the Arctic region," the head of state went on.

With regard to the environment, Karis highlighted the role of international scientific cooperation, which Estonia plays a role in. 

"To stand up for the Arctic, we need to collect much more data about all the changes that have been affecting the region. In this way, we can deal mainly with the causes and not only with the endlessly intensifying consequences that dangerous changes in the natural environment bring to the international community."

Estonian scientists have been key in both environmental and cultural aspects of arctic study, while the largest gene bank covering the indigenous peoples of Siberia is located in Estonia, Karis, himself a geneticist by education, went on.

Joining the president on the panel discussion was Prime Minister of Iceland Katrin Jakobsdóttir, Governor General of Canada Mary Simon, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Prime Minister of Greenland Múte B. Egede, while Karis also met with president of the Arctic Circle assembly, and former president of the country, Ólafur Ragnar Grimsson, while in Reykjavik.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia

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