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'A quarter of the world's timber grows within Siberia’s boundaries'
W.Bruce Lincoln

Arctic gets hot as Northern powers meet to discuss development on the roof of the world

By The Siberian Times reporter
12 May 2013

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and US secretary of state John Kerry will attend the May 14-15 Arctic Council in Kiruna, Sweden.

US estimates the Arctic holds 13 per cent of the world's undiscovered oil reserves and 30 per cent of undiscovered gas deposits

Eight countries with strategic interests in the Arctic - now the focus of oil and gas development as well as exciting transit possibilities - will be represented the session, but many more, including the China, India, the EU, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, are seeking observer status. 

The clamour of interest is linked to the energy and economic potential of the Arctic, a factor which can be a significant boost to Siberia in the coming years and decades. 

'The attention to the Council is growing due to the dynamic changes in the Arctic,' said a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry. 

'This is seen clearly from the growing applications from the states outside the region, from international and non-governmental organisations, to receive the status of observers in the Council, which the ministers will discuss in Kiruna.'

The international organisation was founded in 1996. It unites Denmark, Iceland, Canada, Norway, Russia, the US, Finland, Sweden along with six associations of the North's indigenous peoples. The Foreign Ministry said the session will lead to 'a pan-Arctic legally binding document - an agreement on cooperation in readiness and reaction to oil pollution of the sea in the Arctic'.

Ahead of the session, the US - which estimates the Arctic holds 13 per cent of the world's undiscovered oil reserves and 30 per cent of undiscovered gas deposits - produced its own National Strategy for the Arctic Region, a 13-page blueprint as a new era of exploitation of natural resources takes shape. 

2013 Arctic Council in Kiruna, Sweden

NATO last week denied any intention to boost its presence in the Arctic. 'NATO has no intention of increasing its presence and activities in the Far North,' said secretary general Fogh Rasmussen after spending two days visiting northern Norway. Picture: NASA

It included such objectives as beefing up a military and security presence, safeguarding the environment, and working with Arctic partners to reduce the potential for conflict over - for example - territorial and jurisdiction disputes.

'An undisciplined approach to exploring new opportunities in this frontier could result in significant harm to the region, to our national security interests, and to the global good,' said the document unveiled by the Obama administration.

A key factor in economic development is the warming of the Arctic which allows Russia to examine the options for a Northern Sea Route, dramatically cutting the time it takes to transport cargoes between Europe and Asia.

Russia - which has the longest Arctic coastline of any country - has announced a beefed up military presence to safeguard its interests in this cold region, and like other nations is preparing claims over territorial rights to the sea bed based on geological links to Siberia. 

After Sweden's turn, Canada will assume chairmanship of the Council, which has been portrayed in the Canadian media as 'an opportunity to demonstrate tangible international leadership in the circumpolar Arctic region'. 

NATO last week denied any intention to boost its presence in the Arctic. 

'NATO has no intention of increasing its presence and activities in the Far North,' said secretary general Fogh Rasmussen after spending two days visiting northern Norway.

However he also said: 'Norway has, like all other allies, a legitimate expectation that NATO's collective defence should cover all of NATO's territory, including of course the north of Norway.'

He added at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg: 'The Arctic is a hard environment. It rewards cooperation, not confrontation. I trust we'll continue to see cooperation'.

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