Russia, U.S. sign memorandum on cooperation in Antarctica, other documents

Russia and the United States signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Antarctica during Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of an APEC summit in Vladivostok on Saturday.

In commenting on the document, Lavrov suggested that it lays a legal foundation for the two countries' cooperation in Antarctica at a new level.

Lavrov and Clinton also signed a Joint Statement on Strengthening Russian-U.S. Interregional Cooperation and a Joint Statement on Cooperation in the Bering Strait Region.

The Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Antarctica is based on the Antarctic Treaty of December 1, 1959.

The Memorandum stipulates that the parties intend "to encourage organization and implementation of joint projects and programs for research and exploration of Antarctica," to cooperate "in the organization and conduct of joint inspections" in the region, and "to encourage the exchange of experience in developing educational and cultural projects and programs" on Antarctica.

Russia and the U.S. also agreed "to enhance collaboration in organizing, coordinating and conducting search and rescue operations in the Treaty area" and "in the field of training of scientific and technical personnel for participation in expedition and exploration activities in Antarctica." They will also exchange "associated data in important areas of scientific research," including on climate change and seismological investigations.

"To coordinate cooperation in scientific research and logistical and support activities as set forth in this Memorandum and to develop associated implementation plans, the Parties intend to establish a Working Group, which will include representatives from all interested governmental agencies and governmental institutions," the Memorandum says.

The document stipulates that "cooperation under this Memorandum commences upon signature by the Parties. Cooperation under this Memorandum may be discontinued at any time by either Party, though a Party should endeavor to provide 12 months notice if possible."

Lavrov's and Clinton's Joint Statement on Cooperation in the Bering Strait Area reaffirms "the longstanding interest of the Russian Federation and the United States of America in protecting the shared natural and cultural heritage of Chukotka and Alaska" and their recognition of "the need to protect the rights of indigenous peoples residing in Chukotka and Alaska."

"Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Clinton have agreed to pursue a Transboundary Area of Beringian specially protected natural territory, in consultation with local and tribal governments, linking the proposed Beringia National Park in Chukotka with the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument in Alaska," the document says.

The document's objective is "to conclude an agreement on the proposed Transboundary Area of Beringian specially protected natural territory between Russia and the United States by December 31, 2012," it says.

Lavrov's and Clinton's Joint Statement on Strengthening Russian-U.S. Interregional Cooperation says Russia and the U.S are determined to foster the further expansion of interregional cooperation between them.

"The Sides intend to develop mutually beneficial cooperation by the exchange of experience on the formulation and implementation of regional policy, with particular attention being given to the socioeconomic aspects of interregional relations; by the implementation of regional investment policy and increased investment activity in the regions; and also in the area of formulating and implementing regional strategies of development, including methods for preparing long-term targeted programs," it says.

The document mentions key avenues along which they intend to develop mutually beneficial cooperation, among them exchange of experience in implementing regional investment policy and increasing investment activity in the regions, exchange of experience in promoting innovations as one of the priorities in developing the regions, exchange of experience in the area of contemporary State administration and local government, with particular attention given to the system of 'electronic government', and in other areas.

"The Sides take note of the central role in this process of: for the Russian Side, the Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation; for the U.S. Side, the Department of State of the United States of America," the document says.

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