Arctic border states agree to cooperate

May 29th, 2008 - 7:31 am ICT by admin  

Copenhagen/Ilulissat, Greenland, May 29 (DPA) The five countries bordering the Arctic Wednesday agreed to “the orderly settlement of any possible overlapping claims” in a move to avert conflicts over the potential oil and other resources in the region that will open up in the wake of global warming. Norway, the US, Canada and Russia attended the meeting in western Greenland co-hosted by Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller and premier Hans Enoksen of self-governing Greenland.

In a joint declaration, the five states said the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea offered “important rights and obligations concerning the delineation of the outer limits of the continental shelf,” a statement issued by the Danish foreign ministry said.

The convention from 1982 also covered “protection of the marine environment, including ice-covered areas, freedom of navigation, marine scientific research, and other uses of the sea.”

Earlier, Moller told news agency Ritzau that “until it is decided who owns what, we have a joint responsibility in case of a shipping accident.”

The predicted melting of the Arctic polar cap could allow for new potential shipping routes and open up new areas for exploration of what is believed to be rich areas of oil, gas and other minerals.

Greater shipping could also increase the risk for accidents, while exploration and drilling could result in oil spills.

Under the UN Convention states can file claims to extend their economic zones beyond a 200-nautical mile line (370 km) if they can prove the area is a part of a continental shelf.

The US has not signed the UN convention.

Conservation group WWF International expressed doubts that the convention was sufficient and has called for other international treaties on the Arctic.

“It does not matter who owns the Polar region, but it matters how it is managed,” said Neil Hamilton, head of WWF International’s Arctic Programme.

The delegates gathered also discussed environmental protection, joint rescue operations and maritime safety and said they would exchange information with each other and international organizations.

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