Arctic Challenges May Prompt US to Ratify UN Convention on Law of Sea

The European Parliament has passed a Resolution Calling for Protection of the Artic

The European Parliament has passed a Resolution Calling for Protection of the Artic

By Tony Barber, Financial Times
Excuse the pun, but the Arctic is a hot topic in Brussels these days. So hot that I and many others struggled through wintry rain and darkness this morning to hear Elisabeth Walaas, Norway’s state secretary for foreign affairs, give a talk on the challenges facing the High North.

By now, the facts are well-known. The Arctic region is thought to contain huge energy resources, perhaps as much as 20 per cent of the world’s undiscovered, technically recoverable reserves. In an age of dwindling fossil fuel supplies, the temptation to exploit these resources is irresistible.  But the Arctic environment is exceptionally fragile. Global warming is already taking a severe toll. The ice and permafrost are melting. Ocean levels are rising. New shipping routes will open up. Fish stocks will move among different national jurisdictions, raising questions about how to stop uncontrolled harvesting. To cap it all, the US government declared last May that polar bears were an endangered species.

Meanwhile, territorial disputes hang over the Arctic. Canada and the US, for example, disagree about whether the Northwest Passage is an internal Canadian waterway or an international strait. This is no small matter. Once the passage is fully open, shipping companies will be able to knock thousands of nautical miles off their vessels’ journeys between Asia and Europe. Regulating the inevitable surge in maritime traffic will be a heavy responsibility.

The case for a strong international legal framework to govern the Arctic seems unanswerable. But here’s what Walaas said: “As we [in Norway] see it, there are no legal gaps in the Arctic that need to be filled, and no need for a new comprehensive international regime to govern the Arctic. What’s needed is effective implementation of what we’ve got.”  By this, she meant above all the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, but also several lesser codes and forums such as the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement, the Arctic Council (to which the European Union has applied for observer status) and the International Maritime Organisation.

All other Arctic states agree with Norway that the existing agreements are sufficient. For the US, former president George W. Bush made that plain in a national security directive adopted only one week before he left office. The main argument is that, unlike the Antarctic, where a treaty system dating to 1961 governs international conduct, the Arctic is an ocean under ice and falls under the scope of the Law of the Sea.   It’s interesting that the odd man out in this debate is the European Parliament. By a big majority, it passed a resolution last October calling for an international treaty for the protection of the Arctic. Legislators were fearful that Russia, in whose territory large amounts of the untapped energy reserves lie, wouldn’t extract the oil and gas without damaging the Arctic environment.

But if Walaas and others are right, then it would help if the US government were finally to ratify the Convention on the Law of the Sea. George W. Bush’s administration wanted to, but Senate conservatives thwarted him. Now John Kerry, the incoming Senate foreign relations committee chairman, says he will push for ratification because the Arctic is “a strategic priority for our nation”.   Will this be another area where Barack Obama’s arrival in the White House will make a difference?

Obama Administration Supports Law of the Sea Treaty by Ben Block

Obama Will Continue Bush Administrations Support for LOS Treaty
Senior officials of the Obama Administration are promising to join a longstanding international agreement that oversees ocean resource and pollution disputes.  During last week’s Cabinet confirmation hearings, leaders in both the U.S. Senate and the administration of newly elected President Barack Obama conveyed support for the treaty, known as the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention, suggesting an end to decades of dispute over U.S. accession.

The treaty already has support from a diverse coalition of U.S. interest groups that represent national security, industry, and the environment. Yet continued opposition from Republican lawmakers may stall ratification, in a test for whether the Obama administration can galvanize support for international environmental agreements, observers said.  The Law of the Sea has set international standards for fishing, deep sea mining, and navigation since the majority of the world’s countries signed it in 1982. It provides coastal nations with exclusive rights to ocean resources within 200 nautical miles of their borders – areas known as “exclusive economic zones,” or EEZs.

The agreement also oversees an international tribunal to settle fishing, pollution, and property rights disputes, as well as the International Seabed Authority, a body formed to assign mining rights beyond the EEZs.  If the United States approves the treaty, the agreement would include the country with the largest EEZ in the world, while also potentially clearing the way for U.S. oil companies to mine the Arctic Ocean. U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush supported the treaty during their tenures, but conservative members of Congress repeatedly blocked its ratification due to concerns that it would limit commerce and allow international bodies to wield greater control over U.S. interests.

President Obama’s administration and current Senate leaders have already expressed support for the treaty. During the confirmation hearing for Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska asked whether the treaty would be a priority.  “Yes, it will be, and it will be because it is long overdue,” Clinton said in response. “If people start drilling in areas that are now ice free most of the year, and we don’t know where they can and can’t drill or whether we can, we’re going to be disadvantaged. So I think that you will have a very receptive audience in our State Department and in our administration.”

Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, chair of the foreign relations committee, followed Clinton’s response with his own support for the treaty. “We are now laying the groundwork for and expect to try to take up the Law of the Sea Treaty. So that will be one of the priorities of the committee,” Kerry said. “The key here is just timing.”  President Obama and the Congress are focusing foremost on national economic recovery. The House of Representatives is debating an $825 billion financial bailout that would provide $550 billion for government spending in several environmentally related infrastructure projects and $275 billion in tax cuts for families and businesses.

Among the international treaties that President Obama supported during his campaign – including a nuclear test ban, a global bill of rights for women, biodiversity accords, and a renewed climate change agreement – the Law of the Sea is likely to face less opposition, according to observers. It is supported by a wide array of interest groups, including the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, international environmental groups, and the mining, fishing, shipping, and telecommunications industries.  “The fact is, if you can’t get the Law of the Sea treaty through the Senate with the breadth of support it currently has…it will be very difficult to really run the trap [lines] on any of these other treaties,” said Don Kraus, Chief Executive Officer of the lobbying group Citizens for Global Solutions.

In his final week in office, former President George W. Bush issued a directive calling for the Senate to ratify the treaty “promptly.” Yet conservatives insist that approval will not be simple.  “If [Democratic leaders] start cramming a bunch of controversial treaties down the Senate’s throat with the thinking that Republicans will just take it, I think they’re wrong,” said Steven Groves, a Heritage Foundation international law fellow. “So many of these treaties are objectionable, and Law of the Sea is one of them.”

Industry groups support the treaty largely for its clarification of rules regarding the high seas – ocean waters beyond national jurisdiction - and the Arctic Ocean. Russia, Canada, the United States, and several Scandinavian countries have all claimed territorial rights to Arctic maritime regions as ice caps recede.   Environmental groups oppose oil drilling in much of the Arctic due to concerns about oil spills and habitat destruction. Yet groups such as the Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature still support the treaty for the clarity and negotiating space it can provide.

“The fear is that oil drilling and mining will happen even if it doesn’t happen by U.S. companies,” said Roberta Elias, senior program officer for marine and fisheries policy at World Wildlife Fund-U.S., a Law of the Sea supporter. “It’s about getting the U.S. a seat at the table and, by proxy, getting environmentalists a seat at the table.”   The opposition from some Republican members of Congress is mostly a reflection of their deep-seated distrust of the United Nations and other international bodies. “This seems to me a bit of a Trojan Horse for the ability of one country to affect another country’s environmental policy,” Groves said. “That’s generally something we do not like as conservatives and Americans.”

The Clinton administration renegotiated the treaty in 1994 so it would be more favorable to U.S. interests, yet Congress still failed to support it. If another political fight prevents ratification, other efforts such as international climate negotiations may potentially be at risk, said Caitlyn Antrim, executive director for Rule of Law Committee for the Oceans, an advocate of the Law of the Sea treaty.

“As we move forward to serious climate negotiations, countries will be very skeptical the administration can deliver on an agreement if we can’t deliver on the Law of the Sea, which everyone knows was negotiated in our interest,” Antrim said.  Ben Block is a staff writer with the Worldwatch Institute. He can be reached at bblock@worldwatch.org

Alaska Sen. Murkowski Grills Clinton on U.S. Arctic policy

Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton with Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton with Sen. Lisa Murkowski

By Betty Mills, Fairbanks Daily News
WASHINGTON — Incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pledged cooperation in implementing a comprehensive new Arctic policy that could have ramifications for oil and gas development and shipping in the region. Clinton gave the assurances to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, at a confirmation hearing this week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The comments came as the Bush administration released its long-awaited new directive on the Arctic, the first update of the United States’ Arctic policy since 1994.   “President-elect Obama and I see that as one of those areas that offers a chance for cooperation,” Clinton told Murkowski. “I think you will have a very receptive audience at the State Department in our administration.”

Clinton, who worked in a Southeast Alaska fish processing plant one summer during college, said she is aware of the rapid melting of sea ice in the Arctic.  “When I heard that cruise ships are now going into Point Barrow, I was shocked,” said Clinton, who had been well-briefed on Arctic issues before the hearing. Clinton agreed with Murkowski that Senate ratification of the long-stalled United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is a top priority. The treaty provides a legal framework to govern the Arctic. It has been approved by all major maritime nations except the United States.

The 1982 Law of the Sea treaty has been considered by the Senate for many years but has been blocked by a small group of conservatives who are worried that it would limit U.S. sovereignty. Proponents claim the treaty will increase the maritime mobility of American forces around the world and will secure U.S. sovereign rights over extensive marine areas that contain natural resources.
The U.S. and Canada have an unresolved boundary in the Beaufort Sea. The new Arctic policy was prepared by officials at several federal agencies, including the Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security. The directive takes into account several recent developments, including new national policies on homeland security and defense and the effects of climate change and increased human activity in the Arctic.  The document states that it is U.S. policy to do the following:

• Meet national security and homeland security needs relevant to the Arctic region.

• Protect the Arctic environment and conserve its biological resources.

• Ensure that natural resource management and economic development in the region are environmentally sustainable.

• Strengthen institutions for cooperation among the eight Arctic nations: the United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation and Sweden.

• Involve the Arctic’s indigenous communities in decisions that affect them; and

• Enhance scientific monitoring and research into local, regional and global environmental issues.

Murkowski has been working with administration officials for months to update the Arctic policy. She was gratified that the document was finally released as one of the outgoing administration’s final policy initiatives. “Few areas in the world have experienced such rapid change and the new Arctic policy gives the U.S. an opportunity to be an active participant and leader in this vital region,” Murkowski said.

Bush Releases Comprehensive Report on Artic by Tom Kizzia

Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) listens to President Bush Address Artic Issues

Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) listens to President Bush Address Artic Issues

In one of its last official acts, the Bush administration released a comprehensive policy Monday for the Arctic regions, addressing the growing number of boundary, resource development and shipping disputes in the fast-changing waters north of Alaska’s coast.  The Bush presidential directive takes no startling new policy turns, but it does emphasize the outgoing president’s support for Senate ratification of the Law of the Sea treaty, an international agreement blocked by some conservative Republicans.

The directive asserts that the Northwest Passage through Canada is an international shipping route and calls for building up the U.S. presence in the region to protect strategic interests, including homeland security.  The policy talks about promoting responsible energy development and preparing for the risks associated with increased marine traffic through the region as summer ice retreats. The policy also calls for increased study and monitoring of the effects of climate change in the Arctic.

“The United States is an Arctic nation, with varied and compelling interests in that region,” the policy declares. Among the commitments: to “involve the Arctic’s indigenous communities in decisions that affect them.”  The policy statement was praised by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the only member of Congress to participate in work on the plan over the past two years. Murkowski supports ratification of the Law of the Sea treaty, saying it would give the U.S. a legal claim to oil and gas resources on the northern continental shelf.

But the directive drew criticism from Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska Anchorage marine biology professor who tried to have the policy delayed until Barack Obama takes office. He said the policy should commit to reducing greenhouse gases, not merely talk about studying the causes of climate change in the Arctic.

Overall, he said, the policy is tilted toward “commercial and military exploitation” of the area. “This may have been George Bush’s last gift to the oil industry,” he said.  On the other hand, Bush’s public support may prevent the Law of the Sea from turning into a partisan battle between Obama and conservatives who fear the treaty would surrender too much American sovereignty to hostile international bureaucrats. “By having a Republican administration say some of those things, it may help move that agenda along,” said Mead Treadwell, chairman of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, who worked with the State Department and other federal officials on the policy.

A Murkowski spokesman said Monday she is optimistic this year about approval of the Law of the Sea treaty, which was drawn up in 1982 and has been ratified by more than 150 countries.  The Bush policy on the Arctic was reported near completion last summer. But it vanished off the radar during the height of the presidential campaign as Republican John McCain came under fire from some conservatives for his past support for the treaty.

The breadth of the 11-page directive’s concerns, and its public release, show how far Arctic concerns have risen as a priority, Treadwell said.  He said the last time the government drew up an Arctic policy was 1994, and it remained a closely held document only summarized publicly in a press release. The Arctic policy before 1994, he said, was top secret, even from most policy-makers, presumably because its major concerns were deployment of nuclear submarines under the polar ice.

Steiner said he supported some elements of the policy, including its call for a risk assessment study of Arctic shipping. But he said he would rather see maritime commerce in the Arctic curbed while such studies are under way, rather than promoted. He also was concerned about increased use of icebreaking ships in the Arctic, saying that might speed the loss of sea ice habitat. Funding for new ice breakers also has been opposed by fiscal conservatives in Congress. The policy refers generally to investing in “infrastructure to support shipping activity, search and rescue capabilities,” and other measures. Treadwell said new icebreakers will be important not only for research but to “project the U.S. presence” in a time of growing traffic. The U.S. is not in a position to unilaterally push a moratorium on shipping, he said.

“With that ocean opening up, lord knows what kinds of ships are going to show up,” Treadwell said. The policy explicitly rejects proposals for a new international treaty among the eight Arctic nations, saying current cooperative arrangements are preferable to the kind of treaty that governs the Antarctic.–Anchorage Daily News

America’s Artic Responsibility by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) wtih President Bush

Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) wtih President Bush

It didn’t garner a lot of public attention, but the White House recently released an important new policy statement dealing with an area of the world starting to gain the high level attention it deserves — the Arctic.

In a joint National Security Council-Homeland Security Presidential Directive, President Bush called for enhanced security, increased environmental protection, sustainable energy development, international scientific cooperation and greater involvement of indigenous people in the Arctic. Our Arctic Policy was last updated in 1994, but the Arctic is vastly different today than it was 15 years ago. The administration’s updated Arctic policy recognizes the United States as an Arctic nation and details new objectives, directives and implementation for this region.

Why all the fuss about a frigid, remote region known to most Americans for Eskimos, polar bears and shifting ice floes? The answer lies in climate change and the fact environmental changes are occurring at an unprecedented rate in this region. The polar ice cap is melting and areas that have never been accessible to energy development and shipping have been opening up during the summer months, leading some to predict that one summer soon the fabled Northwest Passage, connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean, might be a regular shipping route.

A more accessible Arctic Ocean will require enhanced environmental protection, navigational and marine safety measures. We must find the balance to allow for reasonable development of the vast natural resources while maintaining strong protections for the environment.  Maritime activities relating to the transportation of goods, oil and gas, tourism and research will surely increase as marine access to the Arctic Ocean increases. Marine transportation through an ice-diminished Arctic has the potential to reduce shipping routes by thousands of miles.

The distance through the Northern Sea Route reduces the Hamburg to Yokahama voyage by almost 5,000 miles. Recognizing there will be increased activity in this area represents perhaps the greatest challenge and need for international cooperation. This is action that needs to be taken now, not after a major maritime disaster occurs.

The Arctic, however, isn’t just about responsibility – it offers opportunity as well. America’s Arctic may hold the key to bringing down the cost of energy in this country and reducing our dependence on unstable foreign sources of energy. Recently, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated the Alaskan Arctic might contain more than 30 billion barrels of oil and 221 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in its undiscovered reserves.

While energy production in the Arctic is vital, we also must not forget about the indigenous people of the Arctic – the Inuit, Inupiat, Athabaskan, Yupik and Saami. The dramatic changes now occurring may have a profound impact on their environment and traditional way of life. Preserving their culture, languages and subsistence lifestyle while Western civilization knocks on their door will be extremely challenging. That is why they must be involved in the political, legal and scientific decisionmaking to ensure that their voice, as the residents of the Arctic, will be heard.

When Russia planted a flag on the sea floor beneath the North Pole in 2007, thus seeking to claim almost half of the Arctic, it sent a resounding message to the rest of the world. While the United States is working to map our own extended Continental Shelf, we cannot lay claim to our rightful area in the Arctic until we ratify the Convention on the Law of the Sea. Nor can we dispute other claims, such as Russia’s or Canada’s, that will likely overlap with ours. This intense interest in claiming Arctic territory is primarily driven by the quest for Arctic resources. Until recently, the resources of the Arctic were deemed too difficult and expensive to develop, but the region is now being explored and developed at an unprecedented rate.

There are some who do not see the point in joining the rest of the world in ratifying the Law of the Sea treaty. But I believe it is important for the United States to be a party to this treaty and be a player in the process, rather than an outsider hoping our interests are not damaged. We are the only maritime nation in the world that has not signed the treaty. Joining the Convention would also give current and future administrations both enhanced credibility and leverage in calling upon other nations to meet Convention responsibilities.  The new Presidential Decision Directive not only significantly improves and updates the U.S. Arctic policy, but sends the right message to the world that the Arctic is important to this nation and we stand ready to work cooperatively with the international community in this region.

While the race to claim the Arctic continues, the United States must prepare for a melting Arctic and the international implications that brings. Our northern neighbors, Canada and Russia, are continuing to move forward with their claims and development of their offshore energy resources and shipping routes.   If the United States is to be a participant and a leader in this region, it is time to step up to the plate and engage. The updated U.S. Arctic policy gives us a good road map. Congress and the executive branch need to work together to implement this policy and give the Arctic the attention it deserves.

Lisa Murkowski is a Republican member of the U.S. Senate from Alaska. She is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and hosted the eighth Conference of Arctic Parliamentarians in Fairbanks, Alaska, in August.

Drawing Lines in the Sea: Nations Stake Claims on Arctic Ocean Riches

By Jessa Gamble: Scientific American
The deepwater submersibles Mir 1 and Mir 2 (eponymous with the deorbited Russian space station and meaning “peace” or “world”) were aptly named—their deployment would stand on par with a space mission in complexity and they certainly caught the “world’s” attention. As a nuclear-powered icebreaker crunched through 10 feet (three meters) of August ice at the North Pole, Russian sailors readied the subs for their 2.5-mile (four-kilometer) descent. A hole opened in the ship’s wake, and the subs were lowered. At the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, one sub took ground samples, the ostensible purpose of the mission, while the other deposited a titanium capsule containing a Russian flag.

Moscow’s 2007 stunt was widely mocked for its ostentatious flouting of diplomatic etiquette but had its intended effect: Other countries were rattled. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper scurried to the Arctic for a sovereignty tour and the Danish science minister released preliminary findings that the North Pole was, in fact, Danish.

Roughly 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas lurk beneath the melting ice of the Arctic Ocean, and the coastal nations are eager to start drawing lines on the ocean floor. Although three fifths of the world’s other three oceans remain high seas, the Arctic will likely hold onto only two small basins designated as the common heritage of humankind. The rest will be parceled off to Norway, Denmark, Russia, Canada and the U.S.—and they’re all looking to get rich.

The rules for seabed resource claims stem from the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which allows a 230-mile (370-kilometer) exclusive economic zone off a nation’s coast from the low-tide mark. There is one exception: If a continental shelf juts beyond the 200-mile limit, a country’s resource claim may be extended. If such a claim is made, a selection of geologists, geophysicists and hydrographers form a committee to evaluate scientific evidence for a nation’s elongated shelf.

International treaties, steeped in precedent, do not always mesh with cutting-edge research. Newly returned from riding along on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Healy icebreaker as it surveyed the Chukchi Sea northwest of Alaska, Vermont Law School professor Betsy Baker reports a failure of science and law to communicate. “There are a number of terms in the law that are scientifically ambiguous,” she says. “How do you define a ‘natural prolongation’? And where is the ‘foot of a slope’?” In the Arctic, unusually broad shelves and long submarine peninsulas complicate the issue.

“You can read these phrases in different ways, but inside Denmark and Greenland there is good agreement on the resulting formulas,” says Flemming Christiansen, technical director of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. “The commission is looking into claims now from Australia and New Zealand, so their rulings should soon clarify the matter.” Most of the 150 convention signatories have a 2009 deadline to make their claims and as many as 50 coastal states could bid for an extension into their neighboring waters.

Out of the five coastal Arctic nations, only the U.S. has never ratified UNCLOS, so it will not be submitting any data to the committee. “A small number of senators resist ceding any sovereignty, afraid the big, bad U.N. is going to divvy up Arctic resources,” Baker says. “The irony is, UNCLOS is not a U.N.-run operation.”

No one is likely to start investing in expensive resource exploration and extraction if they could be evicted by an international ruling, so the outer shelves will not see development for another 30 years or so, says Baker. The challenges of drilling at three-mile (five-kilometer) depths should not be underestimated either, because existing platforms cannot be used. The ocean floor will have to house recovery complexes and the hydrocarbons may have to be transported to land via pipeline. On an ever-shifting ice pack, only the strongest reinforced rigs or drill ships can survive, and should a spill occur, cleanup would be almost impossible.

There is unexplored oil on the order of 90 billion barrels and 1.67 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report, but most of the natural gas lies in the Arctic Ocean closest to Russia. The U.K.-based oil company, BP, PLC, has signed a $17-billion exploration deal with Russia in the hopes of replacing the declining output of its current fields in the North Sea.

Norway’s state-owned Statoil has cold-weather expertise with which it hopes to exploit deposits in the Barents Sea, and Canada-based Imperial Oil is among a handful of companies bidding on Canadian claims in the Beaufort Sea. “Seismic will help us determine where we might want to drill, but ultimately we won’t know if we’ve picked the wrong place until we’ve actually created a well,” says Glen McCrimmon, Imperial’s geoscience manager for the area.

Aside from already valuable commodities like oil and natural gas, the world’s next alternative energy source may lie trapped in the Arctic ice itself. Gas hydrates—a mixture of ice and methane—are found only in high-pressure and cold temperatures. Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation has bankrolled much of the research into depressurizing deposits a mile under the ocean surface. “People realized, ‘Holy cow, this stuff starts bubbling and fizzing when you get it on deck. It’s actually flammable. What the heck is it?’” says David Scott, manager of the Northern Resources Development Program for Natural Resources Canada. Gas hydrates are expected to make up a significant portion of the energy mix once existing oil fields dwindle, Scott says.

Even with the best geophysical data, there will still be political questions. The largest feature that demands negotiating is the Lomonosov Ridge, which transects the Arctic Ocean, extending 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometers) from Siberia to Greenland and Canada’s Ellesmere Island. “It is possible that the Lomonosov Ridge is attached to all three,” says Jorn Skov Nielsen, deputy minister of minerals and petroleum for the Greenland Home Rule Government. “Our geological investigation may find that the North Pole area is part of Greenland’s shelf.”

Lomonosov was likely a slice of the Siberian shelf that broke off northward during the Cenozoic era when the Eurasian Basin opened up on the Arctic Ocean floor, but its current ties to Russia are disputed. Russia, Canada and Denmark may all end up claiming the ridge—and the rich resources connected to it. “It’s hard to imagine the ridge is continuous for such a long distance,” contends Benoit Beauchamp, director of the Arctic Institute of North America in Calgary, Alberta. “But it’s not rocket science to find out. Just expensive and hard to access under the ice.”

Russia Says Arctic Military Conflict is Not Possible

(Source: Daily News Bulletin; Moscow – English)trackingMOSCOW. Oct 22 (Interfax) – The talk about a possible military conflict for Arctic resources is baseless, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“Many alarmist assessments reach almost as far as the World War III in the struggle for Arctic resources. In our view, such assessments are excessive and sometimes provocative,” Russian Foreign Ministry’s special envoy Anton Vasilyev told a press conference in Moscow on Wednesday.

The region’s problem will be solved on the basis of international law, in particular, Russia is currently preparing an application to expand the external borders of its continental shelf, said the Russian diplomat, but did not name the exact date of filing this application. Even if Russia is allowed to expand the borders of its continental shelf, it will not mean that Russia will have total sovereignty over this entire zone.

“Article 76 of the International Convention on the Law of the Sea only stipulates the sovereignty to explore the seabed and mineral resources and the exclusive right to use the seabed and mineral resources. Pipes, cables can be built over this territory no problem, without a permit of respective nations, this zone is open to navigation,” Vasilyev said.The same applies to the fishing resources, he said. “The state does not acquire any additional rights of control over the fishing resources,” he said.