Despite tensions over conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, Russia and the West have maintained a strong working relationship in the Arctic and Canada's new Liberal government is looking to further bolster that cooperation.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has continued to press Moscow over its annexation of Crimea and its support for the Bashar Assad's regime in a long-running civil war. But his Liberals have softened the previous Canadian administration's isolationist policy enough to allow for talks with Russia on other matters, such as the North Pole. A joint conference in Ottawa has been scheduled for Nov. 24.
Russian President Vladimir Putin "views the Arctic as a region that should be void of conflict," said a Russian official who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media. Russia is betting on increased shipping through its Arctic waters linking Asia to Europe, and has set up a number of outposts capable of answering distress calls.
In the face of the conflicting claims of Denmark concerning the North Pole, Russia suggested reaching a delimitation agreement with Denmark to alleviate potential tension between the two countries in early September. Regarding Russian and Danish Arctic claims, there is a 550,000-square-kilometer overlap, including the North Pole point. Apart from Russia and Denmark, Canada also joined the territorial dispute by trying to extend its territorial claims in the Arctic to include the North Pole. Canada and Russia control three quarters of the Arctic.
The Arctic region is one of the major disputed areas between Russia and Western countries. Countries with territories in the Arctic avoid risking military conflict around the North Pole with Russia. The Arctic Council is composed of eight member countries with arctic territory: Russia, Canada, the U.S., Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland; Germany, China and India have observer status. The Arctic Council aims to assess the threats of climate change and its effects on living conditions in the region around the North Pole and new opportunities to open ocean trade routes and offshore oil fields. Out of the Arctic Council members, only Norway's claims over part of the Arctic Ocean have been approved by the U.N.
The Arctic is very rich in mineral resources and is an area of land and sea that is mostly covered in ice. The area covers 20 to 30 million square kilometers and is believed to hold 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas and one-seventh of its untapped oil reserves.
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