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19th Jan 2019

Russia re-submits Arctic claims to UN

  • Russia expects the UN to start looking at its bid in the autumn (Photo: Visit Greenland)

Russia Tuesday (4 August) announced it had submitted a revised application to the UN seeking the expansion of its Arctic shelf border, rich in oil and other natural resources.

The move is likely to add to the simmering tensions on who has jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic with the US, Canada, Denmark and Norway all in the race.

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  • The entire region is drawing intense interest as ice packs melt, opening up new shipping routes and access to abundant supplies of oil and gas (Photo: NN - norden.org)

The Russian bid covers an underwater area of some 1.2 million square km extending for more than 350 nautical miles (about 650 kilometers) from the shore, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The claim includes both the Mendeleev and Lomonosov Ridges, two major structures beneath the Arctic Ocean.

Russia was the first to submit a claim in 2001, but the UN sent it back on grounds of lack of evidence, asking for more research to back it up.

"A vast array of scientific data collected during many years of Arctic research serves to justify Russia's rights to this area," the ministry said on Tuesday.

Russia expects the UN to start looking at its bid in autumn.

The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes the right for countries with sovereignty over their territorial sea to set a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

In cases where the continental shelf expands beyond the set limit, the zone is allowed to be expanded up to 350 nautical miles with full control of its natural resources.

In 2007, a Russian submarine dropped a canister containing a Russian flag on the ocean bed of the North Pole to mark its Arctic claims.

The region is drawing intense interest as ice packs melt, opening up new shipping routes and access to abundant supplies of oil and gas.

The region contains 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of its oil, according to the US Geological Survey.

It will now be up to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to decide if Russia should be entitled to include the areas under its sovereignty.

Norway was in 2009 the first country to get its Arctic territorial claims approved, while Denmark/Greenland submitted a claim in December 2014. That latter claim includes ownership of the North Pole and is consequently in conflict with the Russian claim.

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