MOSCOW (AFP) — Russia must formally set its borders in the oil-rich Arctic region in the near future, President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday amid an international race for the region's reserves.
"We must wrap up all the formalities for drawing the external border in the continental shelf. This is our direct responsibility to future generations," Medvedev said at a Kremlin meeting of his national security council.
"The Arctic region has a strategic importance," he said
The secretary of Russia's national security council, Nikolai Patrushev, told journalists after the meeting that Russia was not alone in staking a claim to the Arctic.
"We must defend our interests in the Arctic, but we understand that the Arctic states -- Canada, Norway, Denmark and the United States -- will also defend their interests," Patrushev said.
Patrushev added that Russia should control the Northern Sea Route, a passage that stretches from Asia to Europe across northern Russia that is expected to become safer and less ice-bound with global warming.
"The Northern Sea Route is very important.... We should control all of it, while understanding that international shipping will use it and they should feel at ease," he said.
Russian scientists last year planted a flag on the ocean floor beneath the North Pole in a symbolic bid to stake a claim over the region.
Moscow says its continental shelf extends along the Lomonosov Ridge, a mountain chain running underneath the Arctic. That claim has been rejected by Canada, Denmark, Norway and the US.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) stipulates that any coastal state can claim territory 200 nautical miles from their shoreline and exploit the natural resources within that zone.
Nations can also provide scientific proof of the natural extension of the undersea continental plate to establish a claim beyond that distance.
The US Geological Survey believes that the Arctic region contains 90 billion untapped barrels of oil.
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