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Putin says Arctic must remain ‘zone of peace’

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called Thursday for peace and cooperation in the Arctic as the Polar countries scramble to stake their claims over the region’s energy-rich seabed.

“We think it is imperative to keep the Arctic as a zone of peace and cooperation,” Putin told international participants at the first Arctic Forum in Moscow.

“We have heard futuristic predictions threatening a battle for the Arctic’. But we are carefully tracking the situation in the region, and we clearly see that the majority of scary scenarios about the Arctic do not have any real basis.”

Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States are locked in a race over how to divide up the Arctic, after US researchers said recently that global warming might leave it ice-free by 2030.

One quarter of the earth’s untapped energy riches are believed to be buried in the Arctic sea floor.

But Putin and representatives of other Arctic nations at the two-day forum stressed that they expected the United Nations to rule on their rival claims over the region’s riches.

“Very serious economic and geopolitical interests intersect in the Arctic, but I have no doubt that all the problems existing in the Arctic, including problems over the continental shelf, can be resolved through an atmosphere of partnership,” Putin said.

The clamour to lay claim to those resources hinges on rival bids for sovereignty of the Lomonosov ridge, an underwater mountain range stretching from Greenland to Russia.

Russia alarmed its Arctic neighbours by planting a flag on the floor of the North Pole in 2007 in a symbolic staking of its claim over the region.