By Rob Gillies Associated Press
CHELSEA, Quebec — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized Canada today for not inviting all those with legitimate interests in the Arctic to a meeting about the region.
In her prepared remarks for an Arctic Coastal state meeting, Clinton said she had been contacted by representatives of indigenous groups who were disappointed they were not invited and that Sweden, Finland and Iceland — the three Arctic States not represented — had similar concerns.
“Significant international discussions on Arctic issues should include those who have legitimate interests in the region. And I hope the Arctic will always showcase our ability to work together, not create new divisions,” Clinton said.
In what appeared to be a further measure of her displeasure, Clinton did not attend the group news conference following the meeting.
Although the goal of the gathering was to improve Arctic cooperation, just the U.S., Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway were invited.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made the Arctic a priority since taking office in 2006, pledging to increase Canada’s military presence in the Northwest Passage in case enough ice melts to make it a regular Atlantic-Pacific shipping lane. Canada says it owns the passage. The U.S. and others say it’s international territory.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere today urged countries to lower the tension and rhetoric around the Arctic in an in effort to promote greater cooperation.
Stoere, too, was not pleased that some countries were excluded.
“It’s not a good thing that the three who are not here are unhappy about it,” he told reporters.
Russia, Canada, the U.S., and Denmark all have claims before a U.N. commission to extend their undersea boundaries into ice-blocked areas, and Moscow dramatically staked its claim to the region by planting a flag on the ocean floor at the North Pole in 2007.
Climate change is altering the Arctic geography by melting ice and creating open waterways, and with them new access to a bonanza of minerals, petroleum and polar shipping routes.
The meeting is taking place before a summit of foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations.