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Arctic meeting calls for closer international cooperation

by Staff Writers
Ilulissat, Denmark (AFP) Sept 9, 2008
Representatives from the European Union, Canada, Russia, China and South Korea met Tuesday in Greenland to put the spotlight on the Arctic, which is hard hit by global warming and home to vast untapped natural resources.

In Ilulissat, at the foot of one of Greenland's biggest glaciers, some 100 delegates gathered to discuss ways of encouraging "stronger international commitment to the Arctic and closer cooperation within the Arctic on climate change and globalisation," conference organisers said in a statement.

One of the aims of the two-day meeting, organised by the Nordic Council of Ministers, was "to increase awareness of how EU policy affects conditions in the Arctic," said the council's secretary general, Halldor Asgrimsson, a former prime minister of Iceland.

A report entitled "The European Union and the Arctic", published just prior to the conference, said it was "quite clear that the EU needs to take a more pro-active and systematic approach to the Arctic, encompassing all the relevant policy areas."

"It needs to do so in a way which could be seen as convincing and constructive by its member states both Arctic and non-Arctic," it said.

"The support of the European Parliament, which has consistently advocated an enhanced EU role in the Arctic, will be essential," it said.

South Korea is seeking entry as an observer into the Arctic Council, a multilateral organisation for environment preservation, natural resource development and protection of indigenous Arctic tribes.

Canada, Denmark, Russia, the United States, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland are members of Council. Norway will chair the organisation until 2009.

The Arctic is home to abundant oil and gas resources which Europe needs, according to experts.

"Particulary as regards gas resources, the EU ... has a strong interest in securing external gas supplies and therefore in positioning itself to take advantage of future developments in gas production in the Arctic," the report commissioned by the Nordic Council said.

The US Geological Survey says the Arctic region could hold 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas.

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Arctic shipping set to explode in legal vacuum, experts warn
Reykjavik (AFP) Sept 8, 2008
As the Arctic ice cap melts away, shipping in the environmentally fragile region is expected to balloon, but there is virtually no legal framework to regulate the new activity, experts cautioned Monday.

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