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Sweden’s NATO membership bid on the agenda as Nordic leaders meet in Iceland

Trudeau there ahead of the annual NATO leaders’ summit scheduled for mid-July in Lithuania
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joins fellow Nordic leaders to take part in a photo in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, Sunday, June 25, 2023. Sweden’s bid to join the NATO military alliance will be discussed today at a meeting of Nordic leaders in Iceland with Trudeau in attendance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Sweden’s bid to join the NATO military alliance while a war rages in Ukraine and Russia deals with the fallout from a revolt set the stage Monday for a meeting of Nordic leaders in Iceland, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in attendance.

Trudeau is scheduled to meet privately with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on the sidelines of the annual Nordic leaders’ summit, which Canada’s leader is attending as a guest.

In addition to his one-on-one with Kristersson, Trudeau shared some time with Jonas Gahr Støre, the prime minister of Norway, while the leaders were sitting down for a morning of meetings.

Trudeau said whether on it’s on tackling climate change or addressing Indigenous issues, both countries share many similarities. Støre added that political like-mindedness is more important than ever, given there’s a war being waged in Europe.

The two-day leaders’ event follows a weekend of military chaos in Russia and comes just ahead of the annual NATO leaders’ summit scheduled for mid-July in Lithuania —a gathering that will be “historic,” Støre said during his discussion with Trudeau.

The Nordic nations have all backed Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia’s invasion.

The war, which began more than 16 months ago, also prompted both Sweden and Finland to abandon their decades-long policies of neutrality and apply to join NATO.

Canada was the first to back both bids and Finland was admitted in April, but Turkey and Hungary have both held out approval for Sweden’s acceptance.

Trudeau’s office said he planned to reiterate his support for Sweden’s accession to NATO during a working lunch with other Nordic leaders.

As the summit got underway Sunday, Trudeau met individually with the prime ministers of Denmark, Iceland and Finland, all of whom said they were focused on the future of the Arctic and the war in Ukraine.

Saturday’s brief armed revolt in Russia by Wagner Group mercenary leaderYevgeny Prigozhin has loomed large over the gathering in Iceland. It pushed security to the top of the agenda for a group of nations that share the Arctic with Russia and have growing concerns about stability in the region and the effects of climate change.

Scientists say the Arctic is experiencing some of the most acute effects of a warming planet, with defence experts adding the melting ice opens up new access to the region while aggressive powers like Russia and China take note.

Prigozhin, who is feuding with Russia’s top military leaders, had led his troops through several Russian cities on his way to Moscow on Saturday, but changed his mind, following an alleged deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin that saw him exiled to Belarus.

Russian state media reported Monday about a video released of Sergei Shoigu, the country’s defence minister whom Prigozhin’s rebellion targeted, for the first time since the rebellion, showing him inspecting troops in Ukraine.

The Nordic leaders are meeting in Iceland around the theme of “societal resilience” at the site of a 1973 volcanic eruption. Leaders have said that sentiment echoes true amid the current geopolitical tumult and challenge of protecting the environment from the damages of climate change.

After his day of meetings and a so-called “family photo” of the participating leaders, Trudeau was set to tour a geothermal plant and visit a carbon capture and storage company, Carbfix, alongside Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Iceland’s prime minister.

Canada is looking to boost its capacity for carbon capture and storage technology, particularly in Western Canada, as a way to slash emissions from its oil and gas region.

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