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The U.S. State Department said on Friday that if Russia passes
The U.S. State Department said on Friday that if Russia passes a new law defining its Arctic boundaries, this will have purely domestic consequences and no international legal significance.

"Arctic nations use different criteria for defining the portions of their territory considered to be part of their Arctic regions. The definitions are generally for the purpose of internal administration and have no standing in international law," the statement said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday that his country's competitiveness on global markets depended on Arctic resources and stressed the need to adopt a law establishing the frontiers of Russia's Arctic zone.

"We need a firm normative-legal base regulating Russia's activity in the Arctic. First of all the federal law on the southern boundary of Russia's arctic zone should be completed and adopted," he said.

Under international law, the five Arctic Circle countries - the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia - each currently have a 322-kilometer (200-mile) economic zone in the Arctic Ocean.

The U.S. statement also said: "the Russian Federation is within its rights to delineate an extended continental shelf so long as the outer limits are consistent with international law as supported by sound scientific data."

Russia has undertaken two Arctic expeditions - to the Mendeleyev underwater chain in 2005 and to the Lomonosov ridge last summer - to back up its claims to the region.

The area is believed to contain vast oil and gas reserves and other mineral riches, likely to become accessible in future decades due to man-made global warming.

Russia earlier said it would submit documentary evidence to the UN of the external boundaries of the Russian Federation's territorial shelf in 2009.


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