Denmark may get energy-rich Arctic waters

2014-12-15 14:38
Danish foreign minister Martin Lidegaard. (Emmanuel Dunand, AFP)

Danish foreign minister Martin Lidegaard. (Emmanuel Dunand, AFP)

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Copenhagen - Denmark will lay claim to energy-rich, but contested territory around the North Pole on Monday by submitting data to the UN which it says demonstrates the area is an extension of its continental shelf.

The Danish government said it would tell the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf that data collected since 2002 supports its claim to ownership over an area of about 895 000km2 beyond the current nautical borders of Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory.

"The submission of our claim to the continental shelf north of Greenland is a historic and important milestone for the Kingdom of Denmark," foreign minister Martin Lidegaard said in a statement.

"The objective of this huge project is to define the outer limits of our continental shelf and thereby -- ultimately -- of the Kingdom of Denmark," he added.

Claims on a continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from a country's borders must be supported by scientific and technical data. However, the remote region is hotly disputed by other countries.

Norway already lays claim to an area overlapping the one outlined in the Danish submission to the UN, and there is "potential overlap with Canada, the Russian Federation and the US," the ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement.

"It will be up to the parties themselves to negotiate bilateral delimitation agreements," it said.

Moscow has increased its military presence in the pristine but energy-rich Arctic region, while Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has made asserting sovereignty over an expansive Arctic archipelago and surrounding waters a key policy.

When Russia planted a flag on the Arctic sea bed directly under the North Pole in 2007, Canada raised its voice to highlight that both countries claim sovereignty over the area.

Greenland geographically forms part of North America rather than Europe and is largely self-governed, but it remains part of former colonial master Denmark, which controls foreign affairs and defence policy.

According to a study by the US Geological Survey from 2008, the Arctic could hold 13% of the oil and 30% of the natural gas still to be discovered in the planet.

The melting of the ice cap also offers shorter shipping routes between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, which has attracted the interest of countries far from the Arctic region, including China.

Read more on:    un  |  denmark  |  energy

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