27.01.11 Menas Borders
Canada and Denmark in Hans Island negotiations
It appears that Canada and Denmark are inching closer to resolution over Hans
Island, a tiny barren island sitting halfway between Canada's Ellesmere Island
Relations between the two countries have been strained in recent years, and the
dispute has taken overt political dimensions, with leaders from both countries
visiting the island and military exercises being carried out in the region.
But the two countries are now in negotiations and have embarked on a joint
mapping exercise, and officials on both sides are confident of reaching an
before Canada lodges its claim over the Arctic seabed to the UN in 2013, according a report in Canada's Globe and Mail on 26th January.
The two countries first attempted to delimitate their maritime boundary in the
region in a 1973 treaty, which plotted 127 points through the Nares Strait.
Island, however, lies in between two points, and so has remained in dispute.
While it has been agreed that the island does not have claim to a territorial
in other words that it cannot be used extend one or the other nation's claims
for offshore drilling or fishing rights in the area, the issue is important for
other reasons. At the heart of the dispute is shipping rights, and it seems
Canada is worried that giving in on Hans Island will compromise its exclusive
claims to the Northwest Passage.
There are two probable settlement routes: the first is shared jurisdiction of
the island, the second is to have a border running down the middle of the
uninhabited island, giving the two countries a land border.
The steps being taken to resolve the dispute between Canada and Denmark mirror
those taking place between Canada and the US over their Beaufort Sea boundary
between Alaska and Canada's Yukon territory.
While the Americans have long sought a negotiated settlement, Canada has
preferred to agree to disagree. But with petroleum companies increasingly eager
explore the hydrocarbon potential of the arctic, Canada's Conservative Prime
Minister Stephen Harper has signaled his willingness to reach a deal.
The past three summers, the two countries have carried out joint mapping
expeditions of the ocean floor, and bilateral discussions continue. The mapping
be able to be finished until 2013 because of short summer working seasons, and
it is unlikely that an agreement will be completed until after then.
The nations that encircle the Arctic have agreed, under the UN Law of the Sea
convention, to submit their claims over what they see as their fair share of
Arctic seabed to the UN for arbitration. Canada's deadline is 2013.
As for the biggest dispute of all, who controls the Northwest Passage, none of
the players has even agreed to talk about it, and no resolution to the question
of whether it is in Canadian or international waters is expected in the
A major poll of some 9,000 people in eight Arctic countries has given some
insight on views on their nations' relationship with the Arctic. Over half of
Canadians polled said they supported a strengthened military presence in the
protect against international threats, more than any other country.
Around three-quarters of the Canadians questioned believe that the contested
Northwest Passage is in Canadian waters, and half of them believe the Beaufort
should belong to Canada.
When asked if they felt their government should pursue a firm line in defending
their section of the Arctic, 43per cent of Canadians agreed. This hard line was
echoed by 36per cent of respondents in Iceland, 34per cent in Russia and 10per
cent or less in the United States, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.
The research was published by Canada's Munk School of Global Affairs and the
Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation.
Sources: BBC News, Globe and Mail
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