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Arctic summit kicks off in Canada

Ministers from eight Arctic nations have begun two days of talks in Canada's remote north - addressing climate change and other issues affecting the Arctic. Tensions with Russia will underlie the conference.

Representatives from the eight Arctic nations met Friday in northern Canada, kicking off an arctic summit that could highlight tensions with Russia over energy resources.

The Arctic council, comprised of ministers from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the United States, Russia and Sweden discussed the environmental and political ramifications of a rapidly melting Arctic in the Canadian town of Iqaliut.

"The retreat of sea ice in the region brings with it a lot of opportunities," US Secretary of State John Kerry told ministers Friday, as his nation took over the two-year rotating chairmanship of the Council.

"But it's imperative that the development we pursue is sensitive to the history and lifestyle that people want to hold on to, and that it is sustainable," Kerry said.

The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of everywhere else on the globe, opening up new ocean trade routes as well as the promise of

untapped oil and gas resources.

But tensions with Moscow over its Arctic claims,

recent actions in Ukraine,

and

provocative military maneuvers

will underlie the talks.

Russian claims

Russia, which holds more Arctic territory than any of the other seven nations on the council, has laid claim to the resource-rich continental shelf under the North Pole.

In March 2014, around the time that Russia annexed Crimea, a UN commission recognized Russia's claim to 52,000 square kilometers of territory in the Sea of Okhotsk. This area is believed to be rich in oil and gas.

Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sergey Donskoy told journalists this claim was "the first step in our Arctic applications, which will be ready in the near future."

Moscow for its part sought to downplay potential tensions.

"No matter what is happening in the outside world, cooperation in the Arctic is moving forward," said Donskoi, who is representing Moscow at the conference.

"There is no room here for confrontation or fear-mongering," he said.

bw/bk (AP, AFP)

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