5 Nations to Debate Arctic Resources

APStoere and Lavrov pictured on their way to the Arctic Ocean Conference in Ilulissat, Greenland, on Wednesday.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Government officials from five countries surrounding the Arctic met in Greenland on Wednesday to discuss competing claims in a region where the polar melt is expected to unfreeze valuable resources and shipping lanes.

The foreign ministers of Denmark, Norway and Russia, Canada's natural resources minister and the U.S. deputy secretary of state gathered in Ilulissat, 250 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle.

They were expected to sign a declaration at the end of the conference, reaffirming their countries' commitments to international treaties governing the region, which a U.S. study suggests may contain as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas.

"I expect that we will agree that the whole race for the North Pole should be solved within the United Nations framework," Denmark's foreign minister, Per Stig Moeller, was quoted as saying by Danish news agency Ritzau.

A U.N. panel is supposed to decide on Arctic control by 2020.

Moeller co-hosted the meeting with Hans Enoksen, the premier of Greenland, which is a semiautonomous Danish territory.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, Canadian Natural Resource Minister Gary Lunn, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere also were attending the meeting.

Under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Arctic nations have 10 years after ratification to prove their claims under the largely uncharted polar ice pack. All countries with Arctic claims have ratified the treaty, except the United States.

A Russian submarine planted a flag beneath the polar cap in August, a move Danish Science Minister Helge Sander at the time called a "joke." Canada responded by saying it would move troops to its north to assert Arctic sovereignty.