Russia bids for vast Arctic territories at UN
Aug. 04, 2015
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia has submitted a revised bid for vast territories in the Arctic to the United Nations, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
The ministry said in a statement that Russia is claiming 1.2 million square kilometers (over 463,000 square miles) of Artic sea shelf extending more than 350 nautical miles (about 650 kilometers) from the shore.
Russia, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to hold up to a quarter of the planet's undiscovered oil and gas. Rivalry for Arctic resources has intensified as shrinking polar ice is opening new opportunities for exploration.
Russia was the first to submit its claim in 2002, but the U.N. sent it back for lack of evidence. It submitted a partial revision regarding the Okhotsk Sea in 2013 and the commission issued a recommendation the following year, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.
The ministry said that the resubmitted bid contains new arguments. "Ample scientific data collected in years of Arctic research are used to back the Russian claim," it said.
Greenpeace responded by warning of the environmental risks.
"The melting of the Arctic ice is uncovering a new and vulnerable sea, but countries like Russia and Norway want to turn it into the next Saudi Arabia," Greenpeace Russia Arctic campaigner Vladimir Chuprov said in a statement. "Unless we act together, this region could be dotted with oil wells and fishing fleets within our lifetimes."
He urged countries seeking jurisdiction over the Arctic to work together to create a protected sanctuary around the North Pole.
Russia expects the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to start looking at its bid in the fall, the ministry said.
Haq, the U.N. spokesman, said there is no plenary meeting of the commission this fall so the revised Russian submission will be included in the provisional agenda for its meeting in February or March. In accordance with the commission's rules, he said Russia's latest submission is being circulated to all 193 U.N. member states, including all charts and coordinates.
In 2007, Moscow staked a symbolic claim to the Arctic seabed by dropping a canister containing the Russian flag on the ocean floor from a submarine at the North Pole.
The Kremlin also has moved to beef up Russian military forces in the Arctic. The effort has included the restoration of a Soviet-era military base on the New Siberian Islands and other military outposts in the Arctic. Earlier this year, the military conducted sweeping maneuvers in the Arctic that involved 38,000 servicemen, more than 50 surface ships and submarines and 110 aircraft. As part of the drills, the military demonstrated its capability to quickly beef up its forces on the Arctic Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land archipelagos.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations.