Russia says it must stake claim to Arctic resources

Fri Sep 12, 2008 11:49am EDT
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By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia must stake its claim to a slice of the Arctic's vast resources, the secretary of Russia's Security Council said on Friday at an unprecedented session of the council held on a desolate Arctic island.

Russia, the world's second biggest oil exporter, is in a race with Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States for control of the oil, gas and precious metals that would become more accessible if global warming shrinks the Arctic ice cap.

Underlining Russia's claims to the region, Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev assembled the defence and interior ministers and the speakers of both houses of parliament for the meeting on the Arctic island, Russian news agencies reported.

Russia, the world's biggest country, says a whole swathe of the Arctic seabed should belong to it because the area is really an extension of the Siberian continental shelf.

"The Arctic must become Russia's main strategic resource base," Russian news agencies quoted Patrushev as saying. The Council usually meets only in Moscow.

Patrushev, formerly Russia's powerful domestic spy chief, said competition from other Arctic powers was increasing and that Russia must strengthen transport links across its Arctic regions to drive development.

Canada, Norway, Russia, the United States and Denmark -- which governs Greenland -- all have a shoreline within the Arctic Circle, and have a 200-mile (320-km) economic zone around the north of their coastlines.

Russian officials say they are entitled to a bigger share. They base the claim on the contention that the Lomonosov ridge, a vast underwater mountain range that runs underneath the Arctic, is an extension of the Siberian continental shelf.   Continued...