Russia eyes Arctic deal with Denmark

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Russia eyes Arctic deal with Denmark
Denmark and Greenland presented their joint Arctic claim last month. Photo: bambur/Iris/Scanpix

With Denmark and Russia making conflicting claims on the North Pole, a Russian minister has suggested that the countries reach a delimitation agreement.


According to a report in the Barents Observer, Russian officials want to open up talks with Denmark about the countries’ conflicting claims in the Arctic. 
The Russian minister of natural resources, Sergey Donskoy, told President Vladimir Putin that Russia’s bid to the UN for portions of the Arctic shelf should be moved along by speaking directly with Danish officials. 
The two countries have made overlapping submissions to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), with both nations presenting their claims last month in New York. 
It is expected that the UN will take at least three years to rule on the claims but according to the Barents Observer, Donskoy wants to “speed up” the process by addressing the 550,000 square kilometre overlap directly with Denmark. 
“In order to speed up the handling of the Russian bid, it will be helpful to hold bilateral consultations with the Danish side on the issue of signing a deal on a preliminary delimitation of the adjacent parts of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean,” Donskoy told Putin according to the report. 
He added that the talks should happen soon, saying “it is desirable to do that in the course of [autumn] this year”.
Denmark has made three claims on areas off the coast of Greenland that total over one million square kilometres and was the first country in the world to attempt to claim outright ownership of the North Pole. 
Denmark and Greenland's joint claim. Image: Danish Foreign Ministry
Denmark and Greenland's joint claim. Image: Danish Foreign Ministry
Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen called last month’s formal presentation of the claim "one of the milestones in our long and extensive cooperation to document and ensure our claims and thus determine the outer limits of the Kingdom.”
“Additionally, it sends an important signal, that we actively support the international cooperation regarding maritime delimitation on a scientific and legal basis. This is essential in order to continue a peaceful and constructive cooperation in the Arctic,” Jensen said in a ministry press release
Russia’s bid covers a 1.3 million square kilometre area and also includes the North Pole. It first made an official submission of its claims in 2001 but was told by the CLCS that additional research was needed. 
Canada has also said it will try to extend its territorial claims in the Arctic to include the North Pole, although it hasn't yet fully mapped its claim. 
Norway is the only one of the five Arctic nations to have had its claims over part of the Arctic Ocean approved by the UN, but unlike the others it has made no claim over the Pole itself. 
Denmark’s claim has been criticised by Canadian professor Michael Byers, one of the world’s leading experts on Arctic sovereignty. 
“It is ironic that the only country that right now could be said to be acting provocatively in the Arctic is Denmark. That is out of character with the country’s tradition of constructive diplomacy,” Byers told Politiken in December 2014.


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