- Title: GREENLAND: Arctic claimants say they will obey United Nations rules
- Date: 29th May 2008
- Summary: W5) ILULISSAT, GREENLAND (28 MAY, 2008) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF SUMMIT VENUE, SPORTS HALLEN DANISH FOREIGN MINISTER PER STIG MOLLER TALKING, SURROUNDED BY OTHER DELEGATES SURROUNDING MEDIA REPRESENTATIVES (SOUNDBITE) (English) DANISH FOREIGN MINISTER PER STIG MOLLER SAYING: "What concerns who owns what there, I think that we agree that will be the Continental Shelf Commission and the United Nations who will decide in the end of the day based upon scientific data. And that is a very important step forward, that we know there will be a new situation before that has been settled and we have to solve problems in-between that."
- Embargoed: 13th June 2008 13:00
- Location: Greenland
- Country: Greenland
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVAE295OXSVI414V0JE4S0XMN0P2
- Story Text: Five Arctic coastal nations agreed on Wednesday (May 28) to let the United Nations rule on conflicting territorial claims on the region's seabed, which may hold up to one fourth of the world's undiscovered hydrocarbon reserves.
Ministers from Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States met in Greenland for a two-day summit to discuss sovereignty over the Arctic Ocean seabed.
Under the 1982 U.N. Law of the Sea Convention, coastal states own the seabed beyond existing 200-nautical mile (370-km) zones if it is part of a continental shelf of shallower waters. The rules aim to fix shelves' outer limits on a clear geological basis, but have created a tangle of overlapping Arctic claims.
The United States has not yet ratified the convention, but U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte urged Congress to do so as soon as possible.
The countries, most of them major oil exporters, agreed to settle conflicting territorial claims by the law until a U.N. body could rule on the disputes.
Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller called the meeting in his country's self-governing province to try to end squabbling over ownership of huge tracts of the Arctic seabed, although it will be several decades before oil drilling in the deep Arctic sea is feasible.
"What concerns who owns what there, I think that we agree that will be the Continental Shelf Commission and the United Nations who will decide in the end of the day based upon scientific data. And that is a very important step forward, that we know there will be a new situation before that has been settled and we have to solve problems in-between that," Moller said.
Also attending were Greenland Premier Hans Enoksen, Russian and Norwegian Foreign Ministers Sergei Lavrov and Jonas Gahr Stoere and Canadian Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn.
The talks also focussed on the effects of climate change felt by people in the Arctic.
Environmental groups were not invited and have criticised the scramble for the Arctic, saying it will damage unique animal habitats. They call for a treaty similar to that regulating the Antarctic, which bans military activity and mineral mining.
The five nations agreed however that no special Arctic treaty was necessary, saying in the declaration there was no need to develop a new international legal regime.
Scientists believe rising temperatures could leave most of the Arctic ice-free in the summer months in a few decades' time.
As the ice sheet shrinks, icebergs will form and threaten shipping, which may increase because the Northwest Passage will open and allow a quicker route.
At a news conference after an outing around Disko Bay, Lavrov said the issue of climate change required more research.
. "This I think certainly requires deeper research so that we don't get ourselves into a direction that might be misleading eventually,"
Enoksen listed many negative effects with climate change, but said there were also positive aspects, such as the return of cod in Greenland waters.
"And with the receding glaciers we already see that we can find minerals that previously were hidden under the ice," he said.
Gahr Store pointed out that although in some ways Greenland could benefit from a warmer climate, the negative effects of global warming could very well be felt more elsewhere.
"I think that the Premier is pointing at some areas of opportunity for Greenland. Of course Greenland should go for those opportunities. In other sectors we need to take precautionary measures to deal with floods and more stormy weather. And finally we should not forget that the most dramatic effects of this phenomenon may not be around this region but around Lake Chad, in the middle of Africa. Or in Asia or in Latin America," he said.
"Here of course there is melting ice, there is the prospect of increased navigation, the prospect of increased tourism, I think the likelihood of increased oil- and gas exploration in the Arctic region. So as countries bordering the Arctic region I think we have a particular responsibility to consider the effects of that those changes and those new activities are going to have," Negroponte said.
The talks also covered cooperation over accidents, maritime security and oil spills.
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