Arctic must remain 'zone of peace'
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called yesterday for "a zone of peace" in the Arctic as Russia and its Polar neighbours scramble to stake their claims to the region's energy-rich seabed.
"We think it is imperative to keep the Arctic as a zone of peace and cooperation," Putin told international participants at the first Arctic Forum in Moscow, which stressed the eye-watering potential for offshore development.
"We all know that it is hard to live alone in the Arctic," Putin said, calling for foreign capital to exploit the Russian Arctic.
"We have heard futuristic predictions threatening a 'battle for the Arctic'," he added. But "the majority of scary scenarios about the Arctic do not have any real basis."
Opening the two-day conference a day earlier, Iceland's President Olafur Grimsson had called for an end to "Cold War" tensions over the Arctic, saying the time for such a struggle had passed.
Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States are locked in a race over how to divide Arctic resources and shipping routes as scientists predict that global warming could leave it ice-free by 2030.
Over one quarter of the earth's untapped energy riches are believed to be buried in the sea floor under the North Pole.
But in a nod to environmental concerns raised by many forum participants, Putin pledged Russia would protect the region's fragile ecology.
"Not one industrial project in the Russian Arctic will be undertaken without consideration for the strictest ecological demands. This is a key position of the Russian Federation," Putin vowed.