Secretary Tillerson to attend Arctic Council meeting in Fairbanks

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, shown here at a 2012 meeting with Russian president Vladmir Putin. At the time Tillerson was the CEO of ExxonMobil. (Photo courtesy Government of the Russian Federation)

United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be in Fairbanks next month during the Week of the Arctic. Fairbanks Borough Mayor Special Assistant Jeff Stepp broke the news at a Borough Assembly meeting Thursday night.

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“Today at a conference in Virginia the Ambassador, David Balton, announced the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will in fact be in Fairbanks,” Stepp said.

The Week of the Arctic is a series of events, workshops, and presentations tied to the Arctic Council, an international body representing eight circumpolar nations. The United States is concluding its chairmanship of the council and, following tradition, will host a meeting as the next country takes over. That meeting is scheduled for Fairbanks the week of May 8. Finland is taking over the chairmanship. Stepp said all the circumpolar nations will be represented, including Russia.

“The ministry of foreign affairs of the Russian Federation has also confirmed that Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will also attend,” Stepp said. “In fact, all eight foreign ministers of the Arctic Council are expected to be present in Fairbanks.”

Stepp, who is part of a local team preparing for the Week of the Arctic, told the Assembly the eyes of the world will be on Fairbanks during the event.

A State Department official declined to confirm that Tillerson would be attending.

Spokesperson Nicole Thompson wrote in an e-mail, “If there are plans for the Secretary to travel to Alaska, they would likely be made public in coming days/weeks.”