Updated: In the previous version of this article, Canadian foreign affairs minister John Baird's quote in paragraphs 1 and 2 was incorrect. The new version features the correct quotation and an updated headline.
MOSCOW, August 26 (RIA Novosti) - Canada is concerned about its interests in the Arctic and is ready to promote and protect its sovereignty in the region, John Baird, Canadian foreign affairs minister, told the Berlingske newspaper.
“Obviously – obviously, we’re deeply concerned. We obviously want to see – you know, we want to protect and promote Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic. It’s a strategic priority for us. With respect to the militarization, we’d prefer to de-escalate it, but Canadian sovereignty, it’s very important that – that we protect and promote it,” Baird told the newspaper.
All Arctic coastal states are currently limited to their exclusive economic zones of 200 nautical miles. However, portions of the Arctic Sea region are in dispute for their shipping and natural resource potential. The melting of the region’s sea ice has opened the possibility for further exploration of petroleum reserves in the area.
Over the past few years, Russia has been pressing ahead with efforts aimed at the development of its northern territories, including hydrocarbon production and development of the Northern Sea Route, which is gaining traction as an alternative to traditional routes from Europe to Asia.
A series of measures have been taken to protect Russia’s interests in the Arctic amid NATO’s increased focus on the region.
In April, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia will build a unified network of naval facilities on its Arctic territories to host advanced warships and submarines as part of a plan to boost protection of the country’s interests and borders in the region.
The Ukrainian crisis has affected cooperation in the Arctic, with Norway, the United States, Canada and Denmark all imposing sanctions on Russia, which reciprocated with a food import ban. In April, Canada announced it would skip Arctic Council meetings in Moscow due to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.