Iceland reaffirms support for India’s permanent UNSC seat

New Delhi, April 5 (IANS) Iceland’s Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson on Tuesday reaffirmed his country’s support for a permanent seat for India in the UN Security Council.

During a meeting here, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Sveinsson “affirmed the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the United Nations Security Council, including its expansion in both permanent and non-permanent categories, so as to make it more effective, efficient and representative of the contemporary geopolitical realities”, according to a joint statement issued by the external affairs ministry after the meeting.

“Iceland reaffirmed its support for India as a permanent member in an expanded United Nations Security Council,” it stated.

“The two countries expressed support for forward movement in the intergovernmental negotiations on United Nations Security Council reforms, and reiterated their commitment to initiate text-based negotiations within the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly.”

Both the ministers also agreed to continue strengthening bilateral economic relations such as in the areas of renewable energy, particularly geothermal energy, tourism, start-ups and extended trade relations.

“They agreed that a trade and economic partnership agreement between India and the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) would facilitate more economic relations between the two countries,” the statement said.

Sushma Swaraj and Sveinsson discussed the challenges of climate change for the Arctic and the Himalayan regions and the importance of continued scientific cooperation aimed at understanding better the implications of climate change for the ice covers and glaciers in the two regions.

“They also acknowledged that any economic activities in these ecologically fragile regions needed to be based on the principle of sustainable development,” the statement said.

Both the ministers also stressed their shared interest in promoting women’s rights and gender equality.

Sveinsson briefed Sushma Swaraj on the second Barbershop Conference to be held at the UN in New York in May this year.

The Barbershop Conference is aimed at reflecting the casual setting in which men get their hair cut, while delving deeper into gender stereotypes perpetuated by social norms, and helping dispel the fallacy that women and girls cannot be equals in the economic, social or political life.

“Both ministers agreed to encourage the participation of UN permanent representations in the event,” the statement said.

Sveinsson and Sushma Swaraj also condemned terrorism in all forms and manifestations.

“They reaffirmed that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motivations, whenever and by whomsoever committed,” the statement said.

They also called for early adoption of the India-initiated Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

“Both ministers also underlined their shared interest in strengthening global non-proliferation objectives. In this regard, Iceland expressed its support for India’s membership in the relevant multilateral export control regimes,” the statement said.

During the course of his visit, Sveinsson also had a meeting with Minister of State for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy, Piyush Goyal.

“They discussed their mutual interest in promoting renewable energy and in cooperating in the area of geothermal energy, where Icelandic and Indian companies are exploring the possibilities of setting up joint ventures to harness geothermal energy in India,” the joint statement said.

“The ministers, furthermore, discussed the importance of the Global Geothermal Alliance for promoting the use of geothermal energy throughout the world.”

Sveinsson had a separate meeting with Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman during which the importance of reaching an early conclusion of the trade and economic partnership agreement between India and the EFTA countries was discussed.

Sveinsson, accompanied by a business delegation, is on a week-long visit to India from April 3 at the invitation of Sushma Swaraj.

He is also scheduled to visit Bengaluru and Mumbai and is expected to meet with the leadership of Karnataka and Maharashtra to discuss mutual business opportunities.

On Monday, he launched a road show to promote tourism in Iceland.

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