Clinton rebukes Canada at Arctic meeting

By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 29, 2010; 3:42 PM

OTTAWA -- It was supposed to be a meeting of polar pals. But a high-level session on the vast opportunities opening up in the Arctic got off to a chilly start Monday, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized Canada for leaving several players off the guest list.

The Canadian government invited foreign ministers from the other four countries with Arctic coastlines -- Russia, Norway, Denmark and the United States -- to hold talks on developing the region, which is being transformed by climate change.

Within a few years, the Arctic's ice blanket could melt for at least a few months a year, opening up access to huge oil and gas reserves, as well as a new shipping lane. Under a United Nations treaty, the Arctic countries can claim ownership of natural resources up to 200 miles off their coasts.

Clinton noted that the three other nations in the Arctic region -- Sweden, Finland and Iceland -- had complained they were not included in the meeting. She said she also was contacted by representatives of indigenous groups in the area that had been left off the list.

"Significant international discussions on Arctic issues should include those who have legitimate interests in the region," Clinton said, according to a prepared copy of her remarks to the meeting, which was closed to press. "And I hope the Arctic will always showcase our ability to work together, not create new divisions."

Canada's foreign minister, Lawrence Cannon, said it made sense for the Arctic coastal states to meet because of their special responsibilities in areas like search-and-rescue. He said the smaller group was not aimed at supplanting the larger Arctic Council.

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