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Friday, May 30, 2008

Russia backs down on Arctic Imperliasm

In yet another craven show of weakness, a pathetic back-down on the wild-eyed attempt to seize the Arctic. The Canadian Press reports that Russia has once again bitten off much more than it can chew:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has downplayed his country's placing of the national flag under the ice at the North Pole, saying it was not meant to signal Russia's claim to the Arctic.

A Russian scientific expedition deposited a rustproof titanium version of country's flag on the seabed at the pole last year. The act heated up the controversy over an area that a U.S. study suggests may contain as much as 25 per cent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas.

"It should be seen basically the same way as the American flag was planted on the moon sometime ago," Lavrov said Tuesday.

In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin erected a U.S. flag when they became the first men to land on the moon.

Lavrov, who was headed to a meeting in Greenland to discuss sovereignty in the Arctic, said the flag at North Pole was not a political event.

"You shouldn't be in this fascinating game of treating this particular, scientific, human achievement as anything else," he told reporters.

Interest in the region is intensifying because global warming is shrinking the polar ice, and that could someday open up resource development and new shipping lanes.

"There is no claim for any territory. There couldn't be because as I said there is a sea convention, there are mechanisms created to implement this conventions, including for the continental shelf," Lavrov said.

Under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Arctic nations have 10 years after ratification to prove their claims under the largely uncharted polar ice pack. All countries with claims to the Arctic have ratified the treaty, except the United States.

Canada has announced plans to build a new army training centre and a deep-water port in Arctic waters. Norway, the United States and Denmark also have claims in the vast region.

Denmark is gathering scientific evidence to show that the Lomonosov Ridge, a 2,000-kilometre underwater mountain range, is attached to Greenland, making it a geological extension of the sparsely populated giant island that is a semi-autonomous Danish territory.

A UN panel is supposed to decide the Arctic control by 2020.

Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn is representing Canada at the meeting on the Arctic this week in Ilulissat, Greenland. Officials from Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States will also be there.

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller will co-host the conference with Greenland Premier Hans Enoksen.

Moeller reiterated that the aim of the meeting was to reaffirm the nations' commitments to international treaties governing the region.

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