REYKJAVIK, April 20 (Xinhua) -- Visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his Icelandic counterpart Johanna Sigurdardottir met here Friday and agreed to carry out close consultations on Arctic affairs.
China, Wen said, is ready to conduct pragmatic cooperation with Iceland in the fields of polar regions, oceans, environment and shipping, and to promote peace, stability and sustainable development in the Arctic region.
Sigurdardottir said Iceland backs China to be an observer of the Arctic Council, supports China's participation in the peaceful exploration in the region, and is willing to further boost cooperation with China.
Established in 1996, the Arctic Council includes the five Nordic countries, namely Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, as well as Canada, Russia and the United States, plus representatives of six indigenous peoples' organizations in the Arctic.
In addition, China and Iceland also vowed to enhance bilateral cooperation in geothermal energy and related scientific research.
Meanwhile, Beijing will speed up negotiation with Reykjavik on a bilateral trade agreement with the aim of realizing free trade next year, Wen said, pledging to expand mutual investment and ensure success of major cooperation projects.
China is happy to see that the Icelandic government and people have overcome difficulties caused by the global financial crisis and steered the economy back to stability and improvement, Wen said, adding that China is confident of Iceland's development.
China, the premier said, highly values the relationship with Iceland, supports Iceland's important role in regional and international issues, and stands ready to make concerted efforts with Iceland to uplift bilateral exchanges and cooperation to higher levels.
Sigurdardottir said Iceland regards Wen's visit as an opportunity to accelerate the free trade negotiation and advance exchanges and cooperation in trade, investment, geothermal energy, culture and other areas.
She also expressed gratitude for China's assistance in helping her country ride out the financial crisis, saying Iceland sees China as a trustworthy friend.
After their talks, the two leaders witnessed the signing ceremony of six documents covering bilateral cooperation in Arctic studies and geosciences among other fields.
Wen arrived here on Friday for the first official visit by a Chinese premier to the island nation in 41 years. Later in the ongoing Europe tour, he will also visit Sweden, Poland and Germany.