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Murkowski heads to Arctic Council meeting

May 17th 3:56 pm | Carey Restino Print this article   Email this article   Create a Shortlink for this article

Sen. Lisa Murkowski landed Monday in Kiruna, Sweden to attend the biennial Arctic Council Ministerial meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry.

Murkowski, along with Sen. Mark Begich, has been pushing for the past several years for more focus on Arctic issues by the United States government, including increased funding for infrastructure and U.S. Coast Guard resources as resource development and increased shipping in the Arctic draw attention northward.

"The world is awakening to the fact that 'North to the Future' means now," said Murkowski in a release Monday. "As important as building infrastructure in America's Arctic is to allow the United States to benefit fully in the path forward, the reality is that we also must be building bridges with our northern neighbors as these new opportunities open up. The Arctic Council is an incredibly important forum for information-gathering, international cooperation, and consensus development so that America is not standing on the sidelines as Arctic policies move forward."

Sen. Begich on Monday called for Kerry to focus some of his efforts on a U.S. proposal to close international waters of the Central Arctic to commercial fishing. The closure does not include the region covered by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Convention.

The council meeting includes some 300 people ranging from scientists to delegates from the eight Arctic states, who will meet to consider policy, including a proposed agreement on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response, the second legally binding agreement among Arctic states that the council hopes will enhance response measures and cooperation in the Arctic.

This meeting also marks the end of the two-year Swedish chairmanship of the council and the beginning of the Canadian chairmanship. The United States will take over following Canada's two-year chairmanship.

Issues on the table for this year's meeting include scientific reports on Arctic ocean acidification and an Arctic biodiversity assessment. Also being considered are several new applications for observer status from countries without Arctic land. Observers don't participate in the decision-making process, but many, including China, who has expressed significant interest in the shipping opportunities opening up in the Arctic, want a seat at the table anyway.

Last week, the White House released its new Arctic strategy, identifying three areas of focus: advancing national security interest, responsible managing of Arctic ecosystems and improving international relationships.

This is Murkowski's second time attending the Arctic Council. In 2011, she attended its meeting in Nuuk, Greenland.

Carey Restino can be reached at crestino@reportalaska.com.

 

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