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Russian official says global powers will clash over Arctic

With global warming opening access to the pole, the five Arctic border states -- Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States -- have been caught in a diplomatic tug-of-war over the region, which is believed to have immense undersea oil and gas reserves.
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) June 19, 2009
A top Russian government official on Friday warned that the race for Arctic energy riches would lead to clashes between global powers and said Russia needed to speed up exploration in the region.

"Our neighbours are engaged in researching technologies to build ice-class vessels and are investing efforts in building drilling platforms for the Arctic," Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said, quoted by Interfax news agency.

"This leaves no doubt that in the coming years this region will become a place where the global interest of many states will clash," Ivanov told a meeting of maritime officials in the northern city of Arkhangelsk.

With global warming opening access to the pole, the five Arctic border states -- Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States -- have been caught in a diplomatic tug-of-war over the region, which is believed to have immense undersea oil and gas reserves.

Ivanov complained that Russia was falling behind the others in terms of investment in exploration and infrastructure in the region.

"The issue is serious: if we do not explore the Arctic, others will explore it without us," Ivanov said, adding that 70 foreign firms were now actively involved in upstream projects in the region.

The country's Soviet-era icebreaker fleet is languishing in disrepair and its Arctic sea ports are in need of a massive overhaul, Ivanov said.

Ivanov said the Arctic's mineral and energy resources were worth 15 trillion dollars (10.7 trillion euros) and added that Russia's growth domestic product was already 20 percent drawn on resources from the region.

Russia has laid claim to a huge swathe of the polar seabed by arguing that an underwater mountain range stretching across much of the Arctic is a continuation of its continental shelf.

Moscow is lobbying a United Nations commission to settle the territorial dispute.

Ivanov's comments came as Russian energy giant Gazprom announced that it would delay the launch of a huge Arctic gas field due to the global economic crisis, which has caused demand for gas to drop sharply.

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