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‘Flavor of Alaska’: U.S. Selects Fairbanks for Arctic Council's Top Leadership Meeting

A top-level Arctic Council meeting in Fairbanks …

Sen. Lisa Murkowski says the State Department’s selection of Fairbanks as the site of the biggest and most important Arctic Council meeting was good news for both Alaska and the nation.

“It shines the spotlight on the United States as an Arctic nation,” Murkowski said. “And we are an Arctic nation, because of the state of Alaska.”

U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic Robert Papp added “This is a very significant event.”

Papp last week announced Fairbanks will host the 2017 meeting of Arctic Council member nations’ foreign ministers. It’ll be the second ministerial meeting held in Alaska since Barrow hosted one in 2000.

Credit Radio Canada International
Foreign ministers of the eight Arctic Council nations, permanent observers and other officials gather for the 2015 ministerial meeting in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada.

The meetings are held at the end of the two-year chairmanship that rotates among the eight council member nations. Papp says they enable the ministers to review achievements of the outgoing chairmanship and hear the incoming chair outline goals for the next term.

“The ministerial is perhaps the most important event in the two-year cycle of the Arctic Council, “ he said, “because it brings the foreign ministers – in our case, the Secretary of State – together to really tie a bow on the work that’s been completed.”

Papp just returned from Helsinki, where preparations are under way for Finland to assume the chairmanship when the U.S. term ends in 2017. Papp says the State Department considered Anchorage – the usual venue for such events -- but settled on Fairbanks because it’ll offer a different experience.

Credit Radio Canada International
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hefts the hand-crafted birch gavel, which depicts a raven and salmon, after outgoing Arctic Council chairwoman Leona Aglukkaq handed it over to him in a ceremony marking the end of Canada's council chairmanship and the beginning of the U.S. two-year term.

“What we wanted to do was find that balance of (a venue that’s) closer to the Arctic Circle; a little bit more rustic; a little bit more of a flavor of Alaska,” he said.

“And also have the logistics,” such as an international airport and enough lodging and meeting space to accommodate some 450 diplomats and their entourages.

Murkowski says she favored holding the ministerial in Fairbanks because it faces many of the same challenges as other Arctic cities, such as high energy costs. She says the delegation members will be interested in learning about renewable-energy solutions being developed at the university’s Alaska Center for Energy and Power and the Cold Climate Housing Research Center’s energy-efficient construction techniques for remote Arctic communities.

“We’ve got so many resources there in Fairbanks,” Murkowski said.

Papp says the Fairbanks ministerial meeting will include a commemoration of the Arctic Council’s 20th anniversary.

Editor's note: This story has been edited for posting online.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.