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‘No rules’ in international scramble for Arctic resources

Published time: December 11, 2013 12:13

AFP Photo/Gregory Tervel

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Disputes over resource-rich Arctic territories will have to be resolved between nations as UN laws governing claims are non-binding, leading Canadian researcher Edward Struzik told RT.

As global warming frees up previously inaccessible areas of the Arctic, nations are looking to stake their claims in the area.

RT: Some claim Global warming is speeding up the race to access the Arctic's resources, why is that?

Edward Struzik: Global warming is essentially melting the sea ice very quickly and creating shipping shortcuts to European and Asian markets through North America to get there much faster than they would through the Panama Canal. Number two: it’s also opening up resources that had been impossible to get at this point. So the future of the world economy is dependent to some extent on the Artic and I think Russia, Canada, the US and Norway and Denmark are very interested in exploiting these resources.

RT: On Monday the Canadian foreign minister said that the country intended to lay claim to the North Pole. Who should decide who controls this unique region?

ES: The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea makes provision for a dispute mechanism process to resolve this. But each country has 10 years to make their claim and then probably it’s going to be another 5-10 years before the UN Convention Committee make the decision. But the problem with this is that it is a non-binding recommendation, so if Russia does agree with Canada, or Canada doesn’t agree with Norway or Denmark, they have to resolve this diplomatically and so this could set off a whole new round of negotiations. In the meantime, all of those resources are going to be exploited, so perhaps there’s not going to be any rules and there are going to be a lot of boundary disputes.

RT: Is there a danger of an escalation in tensions if decisions about the Arctic are left to countries that want to exploit it for its resources?

ES: I think common sense will probably prevail. It’s not in the interests of any of these Arctic countries to go to war over those resources, and I think there are mechanisms at play through the Artic Council and a number of different treaty processes for cooperation to get this resolved, while the UN makes its decisions. I think there is a lot of time and a lot of room for negotiations, but I think the problem is countries can sometimes play to the politics of their nations. In Russia we are seeing a militarization of the Arctic and in Canada we’re seeing Canada claim the North Pole, when in fact their scientific committee really didn’t include that in the draft that they sent to the UN Convention, and this was a political decision and no one really understands why it came up at the last minute, other than maybe they’re playing politics and appealing to the Canadian public. This kind of posturing, I think, can be very dangerous.