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Outgoing Swedes say Arctic Council should not ban Arctic oil exploration

Radio SwedenEye on the Arctic
Shell's Noble Discoverer was part of the company's efforts to drill in the Arctic Ocean last summer. U.S. Coast Guard photo

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has rejected criticism from environmentalists and indigenous groups over Sweden’s failure to push for an oil exploration ban in the Arctic.

Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting of the Arctic Council in Kiruna, which ends Sweden’s two-year chairmanship of the group, Bildt wrote in Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter newspaper that an anti-oil stance would have been futile. “We would not have achieved a ban on oil exploration,” he wrote, “because that is something which only the coastal countries [bordering the Arctic] can decide – and they absolutely don’t want that.”

Bildt argued that progress on environmental issues – including talks on lowering emissions and cooperation over oil spills – could not have been made if Sweden had pushed for a hard line against oil drilling.

Sweden will hand over the chairmanship of the eight-country Arctic Council to Canada. The other members of the cooperation group are the US, Russia, Norway, Denmark (via Greenland), Iceland and Finland.

On Wednesday morning the eight foreign ministers announced that six applicant countries had been granted observer status to the Arctic Council, reports Swedish news agency TT, citing the Norwegian news agency NTB.

The new observors are China,  Japan, Singapore, Italy, South Korea and India, according to news agency AFP.

Therese Jacobson of Greenpeace, Sweden is against drilling in the Arctic Circle  especially because of the eviornmental consequences. “We want to protect the Arctic that is very special and very sensitive," she said.  "To do that, we need to stop oil drilling.”

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.