Iceland calls for end to 'Cold War' tension over Arctic

22nd September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Iceland's president called Wednesday for an end to "Cold War" tensions over the Arctic as nations with competing claims to the region met in Moscow.

"Countries should not discuss territorial claims against each other, but engage in dialogue," President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said, the ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

"The Cold War times, when the Arctic was a region of tension, have passed."

He was speaking on the sidelines of the two-day Arctic Forum, which opened in Moscow on Wednesday.

It is thought to hold 90 billion barrels of oil and 30 percent of the world's untapped gas resources, according to the US Geological Survey.

Speaking with his counterpart Dmitry Medvedev later in the day, Grimsson said Russia and Iceland could strengthen bilateral ties by jointly exploiting Arctic riches.

"All those questions related to exploiting economic resources in the Arctic and opening new shipping routes are a big impetus for strengthening our ties with Russia," he said at the start of the talks at Medvedev's Gorky residence just outside Moscow.

Medvedev for his part said Russia and Iceland shared responsibility for the region.

"We answer together for the Arctic, the climate of the planet, the people in our countries," Medvedev said. "This makes it necessary for us to meet regularly."

Separately, Grimsson said Iceland could help Russia exploit its geothermal resources to produce clean energy.

"We could discuss exploiting these resources in Kamchatka, where there are plans to build a geo-thermal power station for the production of clean energy to be used in aluminium plants," he said, referring to the region in the country's Far East.

Five Arctic nations are racing to gather evidence to support their claims amid recent reports by US researchers who warn that global warming could open up the region, leaving it ice-free by 2030.

Russia alarmed its Arctic neighbours when it planted a flag on the ocean floor under the North Pole in 2007 in a symbolic staking of its claim over the region.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is due to speak at the Arctic forum on Thursday.

© 2010 AFP

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