What is the Arctic Council and what does it want?

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Arctic nations” foreign ministers will meet on Thursday in Reykjavik, Iceland, where Moscow is set to take a rotating chairmanship in the Arctic Council.

The multilateral forum brings together NATO members with the alliance’s main opponent, Russia.

The meeting comes as Russia’s extensive development of an airbase at Nagurskoye is causing concern in the West.

“We have concerns about some of the recent military activities in the Arctic,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday after arriving in Iceland. “That increases the dangers of accidents and miscalculations and undermines the shared goal of a peaceful and sustainable future for the region.”

Moscow says it is a legitimate and necessary expansion of a strategic facility in line with its goals for the region.

The Arctic is believed to hold up to one-fourth of the Earth’s undiscovered oil and gas. With the impact of climate change, melting ice offers new opportunities for resources and shipping routes.

The region has thus become an area of intense competition over natural resources for Russia on the one hand, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway on the other. China too has shown increasing interest in the Arctic.

But leaders gathering in Iceland also share common interests in the Arctic Circle, which has historically been an area of cooperation over environment and sustainability.

How will competition and cooperation play out at Thursday’s Arctic Council meeting? Can the High North slide into conflict amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West?

Euronews looks into the stakes of this Arctic Council meeting and the positions and interests of the major players in the region.

Why has the Arctic become so strategic?

“The Arctic in many ways is the newest emerging market in the world,” said Rockford Weitz, a professor of practice and director of the Maritime Studies program at The Fletcher School at Tufts University.

“Previously because of the harsh conditions and the ice, no humans really spent much time in the Arctic. And that started changing about 15 years ago as the Arctic sea ice started to melt. And so all of a sudden there’s more accessibility for oil, natural gas minerals,” Weitz told Euronews.