Russia and Norway have signed an Arctic border treaty that could open the way to potentially huge oil and gas reserves.
The historic Barents Sea deal brings to an end a 40 year dispute between Moscow and Oslo. Held in Murmansk, the signing saw an area around half the size of Germany divided.
With global warming shrinking the planets polar ice caps the latest agreement comes as other nations with Artic coastlines, including Canada, the US and Denmark, race to secure territorial claims in an area known to have vast mineral and oil wealth.
Under international law each of the five states can claim a 320km economic zone north of their borders. But, Moscow, wants a larger slice. It argues the Arctic seabed is a continuation of its continental shelf.
But, countries like Canada are not happy. Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said: ‘‘Canada will be quite active in defending its territory, we have mentioned this, we have said this. We will undertake and take steps necessary to do that.’‘
The economic and ecological stakes are high. Not counting the whole of the Arctic, experts estimate, the Barents Sea alone contains some 10 billion barrels oil. However, many are worried exploiting that could come at an environmental cost.