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Clinton Critical of Canada Regarding Arctic Meeting

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (File)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has criticized close ally Canada for leaving several key players out of a high-level meeting regarding the Arctic.

On Monday, Canada hosted a meeting of foreign ministers from five countries with Arctic coastlines for talks on maritime boundaries, disaster response and other issues. The U.S. and Canada were joined by Denmark, Norway and Russia.

But other countries with Arctic interests - Finland, Iceland and Sweden - as well as northern indigenous groups were not invited.

Clinton said in remarks to the meeting that significant international discussions on Arctic issues should include those who have legitimate interests in the region. She said she hopes the Arctic will always showcase the ability to work together, not create new divisions.

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon told reporters after the meeting that the gathering was not designed to circumvent the broader Arctic Council, of which Finland, Iceland and Sweden are a part.

Canada said the meeting focused on issues such as Arctic research and rescue, and disaster response.

Arctic disputes have intensified in recent years as melting ice makes the region more accessible to shipping and the exploration of energy deposits. The Arctic seabed is estimated to contain about one-quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves.

One source of tension is the Northwest Passage to the Arctic. Canada claims it as its own, while the U.S. says it is international territory.