(AFP) – May 21, 2008
COPENHAGEN (AFP) — Denmark's foreign minister called Wednesday for international law to prevail over territorial claims in the oil-rich Arctic ahead of a meeting next week on the region's disputed borders.
Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States are at odds over 1.2 million square kilometers (460,000 square miles) of Arctic seabed, thought to hold 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas according to the US Geological Survey.
The rivalry has heated up as melting polar ice makes the region more accessible with scientists saying the Northwest Passage could open up to year-round shipping by 2050.
Foreign ministers from countries bordering the Arctic will meet next week in Ilulissat in western Greenland to discuss border issues as the tensions grow.
"My ambition is that we (can) send a clear political signal from Ilulissat which says we will follow the rules already in place and solve our differences in accordance with international laws," Denmark's Per Stig Moeller said.
The United States will be represented in Ilulissat by a senior state department official as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has to attend a conference on Iraq, the Danish foreign minister told reporters.
The meeting, next Wednesday, will also be attended by Moeller, Canada's Maxime Bernier, Russia's Sergei Lavrov, Norway's Jonas Gahr Stoere as well as the head of the local Greenland government, Hans Enoksen.
Moeller said global warming presented "new challenges" for the protection of the fragile Arctic environment and highlighted the need to solve the long-running territorial disputes.
These include one between Canada and Greenland over the sovereignty of Hans Island and another between Canada and the United States over the Northwest Passage.
Tensions over Arctic resources rose considerably last year.
A Russian submarine expedition in August planted a flag beneath the North Pole and Moscow now claims that the seabed there is an extension of Russia's land mass.
Russia's expedition caused conflicting claims over Arctic territory by numerous countries, including Canada, Denmark and the United States, to grow louder.
The Arctic region counts between two and four million inhabitants, spread across territories belonging to Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States and including around 20 indigenous groups, according to the Arctic Council.
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