Iceland’s Foreign Minister Meets Vice-President of China Skip to content

Iceland’s Foreign Minister Meets Vice-President of China

Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphédinsson met Vice-President of China Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday.

Icelandic Foreign Minister Össur Skarphédinsson (left) and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. Courtesy of the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

At the meeting they made a formal agreement for the two countries to collaborate on harnessing geothermal energy in developing countries, especially in Eastern Africa, which is rich in geothermal energy.

According to Skarphédinsson’s proposal, China will provide the funding while Iceland will provide specialized knowledge, a press release from the Icelandic Foreign Ministry states.

The project would be Iceland’s contribution to the shift to renewable energy sources in compliance with the Copenhagen Treaty of December 2009.

Xi found the idea a good way to strengthen the cooperation between Iceland and China and at the same time work against climate change.

Skarphédinsson and Xi also discussed how the celebration of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Iceland and China next year and the opening of Harpa, the Concert and Conference Center in Reykjavík, can further strengthen relations between the two countries in the field of culture and art.

Iceland’s Ambassador to China Kristín Árnadóttir has drafted important agreements to that regard.

Iceland’s Foreign Minister and China’s Vice-President also discussed other topics, such as the economic crisis in Iceland, the situation of the world’s financial system and China’s attitude towards them, the trade of fish between the two countries and cooperation in the Arctic regions.

Skarphédinsson told the Vice-President that the Icelandic government was pleased with the recent agreement on currency exchange between Iceland and China and thanked the Chinese government for its support of Iceland within the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Xi said he believed that the situation of the world’s economies would improve this year compared to 2009 and expressed his satisfaction with the firm actions the Icelandic government has taken to tackle the crisis in Iceland in cooperation with the IMF.

Xi Jingping is among the most powerful officials in China and is considered a likely successor of President Hu Jintao.

On Monday, Skarphédinsson met his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. Yang expressed his interest in Iceland and China making an agreement in the field of research in the Arctic regions. China has sent four extensive research expeditions to the Arctic, one of which is currently ongoing.

Skarphédinsson brought up the issue of human rights and asked Yang when the Chinese government intended to fully validate the treaty on human rights on civil and political rights which it signed in 1998. Yang replied that it was being worked on and that the Chinese government would welcome human rights talks with friendly states.

The ministers also discussed trade between the two countries, including ongoing talks on free trade. It is expected that the next meeting where a free trade agreement between Iceland and China is on the agenda will be held in Beijing late this year or at the beginning of 2011.

The countries’ cooperation in the field of geothermal energy was also brought up, and Yang said the Chinese government is interested in taking further advantage of Icelandic knowledge in that field to construct more heating facilities in China.

One heating facility, which Icelandic and Chinese parties constructed together, now supplies more than 1,000 Chinese citizens with hot water. Yang is also keen on Iceland and China cooperating on harnessing geothermal energy in developing countries, where the lack of energy prevents economic growth.

Last week, Skarphédinsson went on official visits to Croatia and Hungary. On Friday, he met with János Martonyi, Hungarian foreign minister and Pal Schmitt, speaker of the parliament and newly elected president, as stated on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

Skarphédinsson and Martonyi discussed the process of Iceland’s forthcoming negotiations with the EU where Hungary will hold the presidency of the EU Council in the first half of 2011, plus bilateral relations between the countries, economic issues and cooperation on the harnessing of geothermal energy.

Click here to read about Skarphédinsson’s visit to Croatia and here to read more about cultural relations between Iceland and China.

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