26 February 2014, 19:52

Dispute over Arctic titbid: should it be divided fifty-fifty or not?

Dispute over Arctic titbid: should it be divided fifty-fifty or not?

Russia is putting the finishing touches on an application to the UN in an effort to expand its economic zone in the Arctic Ocean. The economic zone will extend some 650 kilometers from the Russian coast, scientists report. However, other circumpolar countries are also making their claims for the Arctic territory. All of these countries are conducting their own research in order to claim their piece of the North Pole.

As of today, the North Pole and neighboring parts of the Arctic Ocean do not belong to any country. The Law of the Sea treaty stipulates that Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark and the US control the Arctic economic zone that stretches some 370 kilometers from the coast. However, each of these countries is working to justify their claims for broadening their boundaries.

Russia intends to extend its Arctic territories to the Arctic Ocean. The corresponding application was filed to the UN at the end of 2001. At that time, there was not enough scientific evidence, Viktor Boyarsky, Head of the Russian State Arctic and Antarctic Museum in Saint Petersburg, said.

"Countries that have an outlet to the sea can expand their sea boundaries if they prove that a part of the continental shelf belongs to them. Therefore, Russia filed an application to the UN, but it was returned for revision. As I know, Canada filed a similar application and Denmark claimed the same territory as well. However, our application will be considered out of turn, as this is an addendum. Scientific studies of the bottom of this part of the Arctic Ocean have been carried out for more than 10 years. Researchers, headed by Arthur Chilingarov, dove to the bottom of the Arctic Sea at the North Pole in an ordinary expedition on August 2, 2007. They also put the Russian flag at a depth of 4,000 meters, expressing their rights as the pioneers. In 2007 the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment stated that according to the preliminary analysis of the Earth’s crust, the Lomonosov Ridge was a part of the Russian continental shelf," Viktor Boyarsky says.

"We should obtain seismic data, soil samples and magnetic field measurements to prove that the continental shelf belongs to Russia and to follow the succession of certain parameters outside the economic zone. The most active studies were carried out in 2010-2011 in the central Arctic basin, near the Lomonosov Ridge."

Sergey Pryamikov, Head of the scientific and technical cooperation department at the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, talks on the subject of the ocean bottom investigation.

"All countries carry out investigations in order to collect the evidence proving that a part of their continental shelf extends to the North Pole, where it’s connected to the the Lomonosov Ridge. We took part in two trips so as to take measurements. Then, we conducted geophysical studies, following the same scheme – we surveyed the Lomonosov Ridge from the Russian economic zone to the North Pole.

Though countries compete for the Arctic territories, all issues have been regulated easily so far. Thus, Russia and Norway have agreed upon a division of the waters in the region of the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. Canada and Denmark have struck an agreement that stipulates a division of the waters of the Lincoln Sea between these two countries. The abovementioned examples show that though there is a fight for the region, the circumpolar countries are ready to settle the issue in accordance with the current legal processes and positive precedents.

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