Canada-Russia clash over Arctic resources

Another Canada-Russia showdown over untapped Arctic resources is looming later this month at a sleepy retreat near Ottawa.

OTTAWA — Another Canada-Russia showdown over untapped Arctic resources is looming later this month at a sleepy retreat near Ottawa.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday his country will aggressively pursue its interests in the Arctic.

In a direct response, Canada said it would reassert its sovereignty over the Far North at what is shaping up to be a controversial five-country Arctic summit it is hosting in two weeks in Chelsea, Que., outside Ottawa.

Fresh tensions between Ottawa and Moscow emerged Wednesday after Medvedev told a session of his Security Council that Russia must be prepared to defend its claims to Arctic mineral riches. The Russian president predicted climate change will spark further conflicts as ice melts, exposing new areas for exploration.

“Other polar nations already have taken active steps to expand their scientific research as well as economic and even military presence in the Arctic,” Medvedev said.

“Regrettably, we have seen attempts to limit Russia’s access to the exploration and development of the Arctic mineral resources,” the Russian president added.

“That’s absolutely inadmissible from the legal viewpoint and unfair given our nation’s geographical location and history.”

Cannon’s office responded swiftly.

“Canada’s sovereignty over lands, islands and waters of the Canadian Arctic is long-standing, well-established and based on historical title,” spokeswoman Catherine Loubier told The Canadian Press.

“This government is dedicated to fulfilling the North’s true potential as a healthy, prosperous and secure region within a strong and sovereign Canada. We take our responsibility for the future of the region seriously.”

Loubier noted that Canada has committed to building a “world-class” High Arctic research station, will continue to map “our northern resources and waters,” and is taking action to reduce pollution and increase marine safety.

The government has also announced a new fleet of Arctic patrol ships, a deep water port, and is expanding and re-equipping the Canadian Rangers.

“Foreign ministers from the other Arctic Ocean coastal states are expected to discuss these issues when they meet on March 29 in Chelsea,” she said.

This latest flare-up between Canada and Russia comes as Cannon prepares to host talks with foreign ministers from four other Arctic coastal states — Russia, the United States, Denmark and Norway.

Indeed, all five of those Arctic countries are making claims over parts of the resource-rich region, which experts believe holds one-quarter of Earth’s untapped oil and gas reserves.