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USA appoints special envoy to the Arctic

Secretary of State John Kerry together with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Canada's Minister for the Arctic Council Leona Aglukkaq at the Arctic Council meeting in Kiruna, May 2013.

The U.S. State Department plans to create an Arctic representative position to highlight the growing importance of the region.

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“The Arctic region is the last global frontier and a region with enormous and growing geostrategic, economic, climate, environment, and national security implications for the United States and the world” Secretary of State John Kerry says in a press release.

With the U.S. set to take over the rotating chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council in 2015, Kerry says it is vital to elevate Arctic issues and interests within the State Department. He called the Arctic’s transformation “a very rare convergence of almost every national priority in the most rapidly changing region on the face of the earth.”

In letters sent to Alaska’s two U.S. senators Kerry said he planned to name a “high-level individual of substantial stature and expertise” to serve as Special Representative for the Arctic Region. He said he hoped to get input from both of them in creating the post and finding the right person.

The two senators, Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski, have been pressing for an ambassador or envoy to the Arctic. Murkowski has been critical of where the U.S. stands compared with other nations staking their claims to the region. She noted that Russia and Canada have been aggressive in their plans and investment and that non-Arctic nations also are looking at opportunities that come with diminished polar sea ice.

“The United States has never been last in a race to the future, but absent any visionary leadership and meaningful resourcing, we will continue to take a back seat and fail to capitalize on all the Arctic has to offer,” Murkowski wrote in a letter to the president, USA Today reports.

In Russia, Anton Vasiliev has been Ambassador at Large for Arctic cooperation since 2008. He is Senior Arctic Official of Russia in the Arctic Council and former Senior Official of Russia in the Barents Euro-Arctic Council.