Denmark seeks unity over Arctic claims
By Kim McLaughlin
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark called on Arctic coastal nations on Wednesday to avoid a scramble for the region's resources and urged all countries to abide by U.N. rules on territorial claims.
Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller meets leaders from Norway, Canada, Russia, the United States and Greenland's home-rule government next week.
The Arctic could hold as much as one-quarter of the world's remaining undiscovered oil and gas deposits, according to some estimates.
Countries around the ice-covered ocean are rushing to stake out claims on the Polar Basin seabed and have sought to bolster their scientific claims under a U.N. convention to extend their territorial sovereignty.
"My ambition is that we send a clear political signal which says that we will follow the rules already in place and solve any difference in accordance with international law," Moller told reporters on Wednesday.
Apart from territorial claims in the Arctic, the countries also plan to discuss cooperation on accidents, maritime security and oil spills when they meet from May 27 to 29 in Ilulissat, Greenland.
Moller said he was reasonably confident the conference would issue a declaration establishing that the United Nations would rule on the territorial disputes "so that we don't have this rush on who comes first or who plants their flag where."
The issue has become urgent because rapidly rising temperatures could leave most of the Arctic free of ice for several months in the summers in a few decades' time, scientists say. This would ease access for drilling.
Moller said it was important to agree on a framework now because any conflicts in the Arctic would become increasingly difficult to settle as the oil becomes more accessible.
Russia last summer angered the other Arctic nations by planting a flag on the seabed under the North Pole, further focusing attention on the race for hydrocarbon treasures made even more tempting by spiraling oil prices.
Russia and Norway have made submissions to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Denmark and Canada are also preparing submissions to support extending their territory beyond the established 200 nautical miles from land.
(Reporting by Kim McLaughlin; Editing by David Fogarty)