The foreign ministers of Russia and Canada both said Thursday they expect the United Nations to rule in favour of their nations' respective rival claims to Arctic resources.
Russia, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to contain as much as a quarter of the Earth's undiscovered oil and gas.
Lawrence Cannon of Canada and Sergey Lavrov of Russia said after talks in Moscow Thursday that both nations claim the Lomonosov Ridge under the Arctic as an extension of their respective continental shelves.
The dispute has intensified amid growing evidence that global warming is shrinking polar ice, opening up new shipping lanes and new resource development opportunities.
"We will submit our data on the Lomonosov Ridge and we are confident that our case will prevail backed by scientific evidence," Cannon said at a news conference after the talks.
Lavrov said Russia also is working to submit additional data that will persuade the UN of the validity of Moscow's claim.
"They should provide a scientific proof that it's an extension of our continental shelf," he said.
Moscow first submitted its claim in 2001 to the United Nations, but it was sent back for lack of evidence. Russia then dramatically staked its claim to the region by dropping a canister containing the Russian flag on the ocean floor from a small submarine at the North Pole in 2007.
An Arctic strategy paper signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2008 said that by 2011 Russia must complete geological studies to prove its claim to Arctic resources and win international recognition of its Arctic borders. The document said the polar region must become Russia's "top strategic resource base" by the year 2020.
Lavrov said that a United Nations commission is to rule based on the available evidence.
"Everything must be based on scientifically proven facts that the commission will consider and decide who was right," Lavrov said.
Lavrov said an agreement signed Wednesday by Russia and Norway to delineate their border in the energy-rich Barents Sea set an example for settling conflicting claims.
Warning to NATO
Lavrov also warned against NATO boosting its presence in the Arctic.
"I don't think it would be right for NATO to assume the right to determine … how to make decisions in the Arctic," he said.
Cannon said that while Canada is not looking to militarize the Arctic dispute, it intends to "assert sovereignty" over some parts of the Arctic to ensure the security of its borders.
Lavrov sought to play down the differences between Russia and Canada and underscore their common points.
"We agree with our Canadian counterparts that questions like this must be resolved by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and its mechanisms, which are respected by all Arctic nations," he said.