Russia Prepares to Send New Bid for Arctic Shelf to UN

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Academician Fedorov © Jannej Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 14 October 2010 08:05 Written by Voice of Russia. Original article here.

The flagship of the Russian polar fleet The Academician Fedorov is back from another research expedition. The goal of the expedition in the Arctic was to gather evidence (and subsequently hand it over to the relevant UN commission) that the continental Arctic shelf, specifically the Lomonosov ridge and Mendeleev elevation, is part of Russia.

The researchers spent three months exploring the shelf in the area of the Lomonosov Ridge and the Mendeleev elevation in the Arctic Ocean to collect more data for the scientific grounds for of Russia’s external borders in the Arctic region. We hear from Vasily Gutsulyak, an expert in the maritime law.

The state borders in the Arctic region can be fixed only on the basis of International law. The leading roles in this process belong to the five Arctic nations including Russia. There are geographical and historical reasons for that. If we take a so called sector-based theory thenn we should draw a triangle with the Arctic Pole in the upper angle and the coast in the bottom one. This is the most prevalent doctrine, but I would like to stress that this approach has not been set in any international agreement yet.

The Law of the Sea Convention defines that Russia has a 12 mile strip of territorial waters along the coast of the Arctic Ocean and a 200-mile economic zone. Russia will manage to extend its economic zone if it proves that the continental shelf spreads farther than 200 miles from the coast.

Several years ago Russia submitted its request to the relevant UN commission to recognize the underwater Lomonosov Ridge as the continuation of Siberian platform. That means that the Russian shelf spreads up to the Arctic Pole and that is why the Russian economic zone should be extended.

Then the UN Commission neither approved nor rejected Moscow’s request recommending to collect additional evidence.

The analysis of the samples collected by the Russian researchers proves that the Lomonosov Ridge and the Siberian continental platform have the same structure.

The UN commission plans to return to Moscow’s request in 2013. If the Lomonosov Ridge is recognized as the border of the Russian shelf Russia will receive a gigantic sector of 1.2 million square kilometer for exploration.

However other arctic powers are not going to surrender so easily. Denmark and Canada are now collecting data to prove that the Lomonosov Ridge is the extension of their continental shelves.

NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe Admiral James G. Stavridis has already made a statement about the possibility of an Arctic Cold War. On the other hand, Russia and Norway have recently signed an agreement on the division of their areas in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean. As we see the issues of division of the Arctic territories will be solved not only by the UN but also by means of agreements between the Polar nations.

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