By Julian Pecquet - 02/14/14 04:27 PM EST
Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday he was creating a position of envoy to the Arctic, fulfilling a longtime request of Alaskan lawmakers.
The announcement, in a letter to Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), comes amid increasing concerns that other nations – notably Russia – are staking claims in the Arctic amid a regional race for oil, gas and minerals sparked by global climate change.
“For a long time now, I've shared the view that the Arctic region really is the last global frontier, and the United States needs to elevate our attention and effort to keep up with the opportunities and consequences presented by the Arctic's rapid transformation,” Kerry wrote to Begich.
“Properly managed, this region provides an opportunity for creative diplomatic leadership — but truly establishing and capitalizing on this leadership role will require making the Arctic region a higher U.S. priority; greater attention paid by senior policy makers; and, in keeping with President Obama's call for 'national unity of effort' on the Arctic, coordination of operational departments,” Kerry said.
Begich, who has been calling for the creation of an Arctic ambassador since arriving in the Senate in 2008, applauded the announcement.
“It’s not always easy explaining to Washington bureaucrats how things are different at home in Alaska, but today’s decision by Secretary of State John Kerry to finally create an Arctic Ambassador is an important step in the right direction,” Begich said in a statement. “The bottom line is that the changes we see in the Arctic warrant a higher level of involvement from the U.S. and this position will allow us to better exercise leadership and vision in Arctic policy moving forward.”
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