Russian president says Russia must cement claim over resource-rich Arctic

Business Materials 17 September 2008 16:46 (UTC +04:00)

President Dmitry Medvedev called Wednesday for Russia to secure its Arctic borders because the region may hold more than a quarter of the world's offshore oil and gas reserves, reports dpa .

"Our first and fundamental task is to turn the Arctic into a resource base for Russia in the 21st century," Medvedev said at a meeting of National Security Council on Wednesday. "Using these resources will entirely guarantee Russia's energy security."

Russia is involved in an international race with the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark to lay claim to suspected vast energy and mineral reserves that will open up in the wake of global warming.

"We must finalize and draft law for on setting the southern border of the Arctic region. This our responsibility to future generations," Medvedev told the gathering.

The secretary of Russia's security council, Nikolay Patruschev, estimated 18 per cent of the Arctic, or a zone of about 20,000 kilometres, was rightfully Russian territory.

Moscow outraged the five polar border states with an expedition last year to plant Russian flag on the seabed under the North Pole. It says its research since 2001 proves that a massive underwater mountain range is an extension of Russia's continental shelf.

Medvedev earlier this year signed a law providing for the Kremlin to have the sole say in assigning the rights to developing the Arctic's offshore finds.

Energy giant Gazprom, a large supplier of gas to Europe, followed up Medvedev's statements Wednesday with its own announcement of the creation of a subsidiary company to take charge of exploration of some of the world's most challenging deposits in the Arctic.

Gazprom has projected Arctic and offshore reserves will count for more than half of the gas it produces by 2020.

Russia also relaunched Soviet-era military patrols of Arctic waters this year.

With the claim to resources heating up and no ban on weapons in the Arctic, the five states on the Arctic border promised in May to settle overlapping claims under international law in a move to avert conflicts over region's resources.

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, not yet ratified by the United States, countries have until May 2009 to lodge their ownership claims.