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SELIGER, August 27, /ITAR-TASS/. Arctic region should be left outside of military rhetoric and it must not be made an arena for military contentions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday at the Seliger’2014 all-Russia youth forum.
“The Arctic should be left outside of the brackets of military rhetoric,” he said.
“My Canadian counterpart John Baird said one of these days Canada - or much rather he personally - was concerned by Russia’s activity in the Arctic and his country was ready for a military standoff with Russia in northern latitudes.”
“It’s also true that he or his press service - said a day later that his words had been misunderstood and distorted,” Lavrov said.
“I don’t think they were distorted,” he said. “Unfortunately, Mr. Baird has innuendos of this kind sometimes and his predecessor was also known to say Russia didn’t have the right to some moves.”
Lavrov recalled the charges against Russia that the Canadian government made several years ago when the Russian Arctic explorer Artur Chilingarov installed the Russian flag on the floor of the Arctic Ocean at the point of the geographic North Pole. Canadians said then Russia was trying to usurp territories like it had been done in the times of gold rush.
“That’s nonsense,” Lavrov said. “We don’t want to turn the Arctic into an arena for an armed standoff.”
“There exists the Arctic Council - the five countries that have immediate access to the Arctic Ocean. This is a legitimate format that ensures the legal rights of the countries located there, a format for establishing the rules for collaboration in the region in the field of rational utilization of its huge natural resources.”
Lavrov recalled that first intergovernmental agreements on prevention of oil spills in the Arctic had been signed.
“Nor is there any reason for Greenpeace to worry about because we take account of these concerns and, on top of that, we share them,” he went on. “Unlike those who stage noisy protests, we’re taking practical measures in the Arctic Council to keep up the ecology of that unique part of the world.”
“The Council runs specialized programs for supporting the indigenous peoples of the North with their original lifestyles, traditions and culture. It recently took a decision to admit observer countries.
“This was a long process,” Lavrov said. “We were joined by other countries of the EU, China, India, Japan, and Korea but the ruling on their accession says that the rules for cooperation will be mapped out by the Arctic countries.”
“When we get together in the framework of this forum, no one ever mentions any conflicts and confrontations,” he said. “Everyone is interested in preserving cooperation and international law as the basic principles for exploration and development of the region.”
“We’ve already proven our rights to the entire Sea of Okhotsk and the process of formalizing our rights to the Arctic continental shelf is also nearing completion,” he said.
“This will be a long procedure but we’re confident we have all the legal grounds for formalizing our rights to the entire continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean,” Lavrov said.