Russia, Canada trade rival Arctic claims

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Canada and Russia's foreign ministers traded claims over the Arctic Thursday as their countries eyed energy riches and shipping routes made increasingly accessible by melting Polar ice.

Canada's Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said the aim of his mission to Moscow was to explain his country's newly released Arctic policy, which includes a greater military presence in the region.

"We do not have the intention to militarize the Arctic," he told a news conference following talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

But he insisted: "We will exercise our sovereignty in the Arctic."

"We are doing so in two ways: First, via a robust presence of Canadian forces but also via the (scientific) equipment that may eventually prove our claim."

The two Arctic nations claim that the Lomonosov Ridge, a mountain chain running underneath the Arctic, is an extension of their continental shelf.

Both said Thursday that they expect the United Nations to rule on their rival claims.

"We will submit our data on the Lomonosov Ridge and we are confident that our case will prevail, backed by scientific evidence," Cannon said.

"Both Russia and Canada respect the United Nations and the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas."

Lavrov meanwhile was quick to warn that while Moscow would defer to the UN, another international organization -- the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) -- had no right to mediate disputing Arctic claims.

"I don't think that NATO will act correctly if it takes on the role of deciding who and how to resolve problems in the Arctic," he said. "The (UN) commission will have to decide who is right and who is wrong."

Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States are at odds over how to divide up the Arctic seabed, thought to hold 90 billion barrels of oil and 30 percent of the world's untapped gas resources, according to the US Geological Survey.

The five Arctic nations are locked in a tight race to gather evidence to support their claims amid recent reports by US researchers warning global warming could leave the region ice free by 2030.

© 2010 AFP

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