Maria Zakharova is press spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Archive photo by Atle Staalesen

Foreign Ministry rebuffs international concern over environment on Northern Sea Route

We will do whatever necessary to provide security to marine traffic and protect the very vulnerable ecosystem, says ministry press spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
August 29, 2019

The development of the Northern Sea Route came on the agenda in the Foreign Ministry’s latest weekly press conference after several foreign leaders reportedly commented on environment in the region.

Among them was French President Emmanuel Macron who in a meeting with business leaders was called upon to protect Arctic nature.

The Northern Sea Route stretches between the Novaya Zemlya and the Bering Strait. Map by nsra.ru

According to Zakharova, the French President was encouraged to abstain from the use of the Northern Sea Route and protect the Russian North against human influence.

And several more foreign leaders have recently expressed similar concern, the ministry press spokeswoman made clear, possibly having in mind Norway’s Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide who reportedly told newspaper Izvestia that environmental standards on the Arctic route need to be checked.

The Russian Foreign Ministry now calls on the countries to specify their positions.

«If the media has twisted the position of Paris, then we will with pleasure take that into account if the official point of view of France on the issue is announced,» Zakharova said.

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She made crystal clear that Russia has the sole responsibility for developments in the remote region and that it is taking the measures needed for protection of the shipping route.

«As a coastal state, Russia in full compliance with International Law takes responsibility for operations on this route and will do whatever needed to provide security for marine traffic and gentle care of the very vulnerable ecosystem in the region.»

The Northern Sea Route has become a key political issue in Russia after President Vladimir Putin last year announced that he wants annual shipments on the Arctic route to reach as much as 80 million tons in 2024.

According to Maria Zakharova, Russia is interested in “more compressive interaction with foreign countries with regard to the use of the sea route».

The international concern for the environment along the vast Arctic coasts has been spurred by the quickly growing industrial activities across the region. As temperatures increase and the ice retreats, comes the advance of extractive industries of oil, gas and coal into new and previously unavailable Arctic lands.

Shipments in the Northern Sea Route in 2018 amounted to about 20 million tons. Estimates from the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources indicated an increase to 30 million tons in the course of 2019.

 

 

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