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The Arctic: rivalry or cooperation?

08.11.2007 Russia should work more within the international community in resolving Arctic issues - including ones that are not directly related to oil and gas extraction.

A new situation has arisen in the north of Europe that could eventually trigger a host of international disagreements. Besides directly affecting the countries in the region, it is capable of complicating relations between Russia and the United States, Canada, the European Union, and NATO. Russia's renewed activity on the Arctic continental shelf is the apparent cause of all this commotion. Until recently, the Arctic shelf belonged to no one, yet it reputedly contains one quarter of the world's oil-and-gas resources. Additionally, the Northwest Passage, the shortest route for ocean shipments between Northern Europe, Northeast Asia and the west coast of North America, traverses this territory.

After a Russian scientific expedition last August, it became possible to argue that the underwater Lomonosov and Mendeleev ridges were geological extensions of the Siberian continental shelf. If true, this would allow Russia to claim up to 1.2 million square kilometers of the Arctic shelf and extend its 200-mile offshore zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It is expected that the country will file an official claim to the appropriate UN commission in 2009.

Almost immediately, other countries started to challenge Russia's claims. While the Arctic countries - the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway - were obviously the most interested, other northern European countries such as Sweden, Iceland and Finland and the UK, as well as such unlikely contenders as China and Japan showed concern over the claims.

Source: RIA Novosti

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