Image courtesy of Stig Nygaard via flickr
A flashpoint of international contention in recent months, the race to lay claim to the Arctic's resources finally came to a head this past week when Greenland hosted a meeting between the five Arctic nations to resolve the dispute, The Guardian's Julian Borger reports. Lambasted as a "carve-up"deal by critics for barring several nations and environmental groups from participating, the U.S., Norway, Russia, Denmark and Canada agreed to abide by the 1982 Law of the Sea in managing the region's vast oil and gas reserves. Until now, the dispute over who could rightly claim the Arctic's resources had boiled down to an arcane debate over which of the five nations' continental shelves were connected to the region's undersea mountain ranges. Under the Law of the Sea, countries can only own the seabed beyond their Exclusive Economic Zones (200 nautical miles out) if it's part of their continental shelf.
Adjudicating the dispute may prove difficult for the U.N. as each country has (not surprisingly) interpreted the law to favor its interests and shown little sign of backing down. Another problem is that the U.S., despite taking part in the discussions, never actually ratified the 1982 U.N. convention -- leaving many to wonder why it should benefit from any future resource "carve-up."
Environmental groups are pushing the idea that the Arctic should be protected in the same way as the Antarctic from any military activity or drilling. With some estimating that the Arctic could contain a quarter of the world's remaining undiscovered oil and gas reserves, we doubt this proposition will carry much weight.
Via ::The Guardian: Closed-door Arctic deal denounced as 'carve-up' (news website)