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Blinken Meets With Danish PM At Start Of Diplomatic Trip Focused On Future Of Arctic

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met with Danish Prime Minister Mette Fredriksen in Copenhagen at the start of a diplomatic tour that includes a meeting in Iceland of the Arctic Council and his first face-to-face talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov since President Joe Biden started his term in January.

During his May 17 meeting with Fredriksen, Blinken "emphasized the importance of advancing our mutual goals of combating the climate crisis, developing green technology, and continuing common efforts with the Kingdom of Denmark on the Arctic," the State Department said in a statement.

The two also discussed "strengthening the NATO Alliance and cooperating to address other challenges, including energy security," it said.

Blinken is also due to hold talks with Danish 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 on May 19.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said 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 has said the two will discuss "key issues of mutual relations and the international agenda."

Ahead of the meeting, Lavrov on May 17 warned Western countries against staking claims in the Arctic.

"It has been absolutely clear for everyone for a long time that this is our territory, this is our land," Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow. "We are responsible for ensuring our Arctic coast is safe."

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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