NOVO-OGARYOVO, Moscow Region, April 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will begin judicial procedures to solidify its exclusive rights to a large area in the Sea of Okhotsk, part of the western Pacific Ocean that was recognized by the UN last month as an extension of the Russian continental shelf, a senior Russian official said Friday.
"It took Russia many years to achieve this success," said Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Sergei Donskoy, according to a statement by the ministry.
"Now we have to cooperate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other involved governmental agencies to arrange all the legal procedures. I hope it will not take long," he added.
Last month, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf unanimously voted to confirm Russia's petition to recognize a 52,000-square-kilometer (20,000-square-mile) zone in the Sea of Okhotsk as part of the Russian continental shelf, affirming the scientific and legal reasoning of the appeal.
"We have been working on this appeal for a long time. We first filed it in 2001. But back then we didn't have enough information and our Japanese colleagues raised some points of criticism. As a result our appeal was rejected," the minister said.
"But last August, we filed a modified application, we analyzed how the commission worked this time and it turned out that our appeal was approved very quickly," said Donskoy during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, borders of continental shelves are established based on the recommendations of the UN commission and are definitive and universally binding. Russia now has an exclusive right to develop the zone, situated 200 nautical miles from the Russian coastline and larger than Slovakia or Switzerland.
According to experts, up to 40 percent of the newly integrated maritime territory could hold valuable minerals and other natural resources. Experts have called the reserves "the cave of Ali-Baba," a reference to a treasure store in a fable from "The Arabian Nights."