Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Canada makes Arctic claim

Earlier this month, Canada made a partial submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to extend its maritime borders in the Arctic to encompass an extra half a million square miles of territory, including the North Pole. This move has angered some of the other four states who lay claim to a portion of the Arctic, including Russia, Greenland, US and Denmark. Claims to the region will become crucial geopolitical considerations for these states in the coming years, as the area north of the Arctic Circle has an estimated 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil according to the US Geological Survey.
Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird said last week that, as part of its submission, his government was making a claim on the Lomonosov Ridge, a submerged mountain-range between Ellesmere Island, Canadian territory, and Russia's Siberian coast. Russia, which has historically named the Ridge as part of its territory, responded to Canada's move by increasing its military presence in the Arctic. President Vladimir Putin has reasserted that the region is key to his nation's interests and that he would build up infrastructure in an area that has seen a Russian retreat in recent years.
Despite the charged, publicly-iterated political rhetoric from Canada and Russia, according to researchers from the International Boundaries Research Unit in Durham University, teams of scientists from both nations are working together on the frozen region, and in reality, there is a great deal more co-operation than their leaders let on. Nevertheless, it is likely that Canada's claim is largely political, more than anything else, given that there are no hydrocarbons reserves at the North Pole.
Canada signed the UNCLOS on 10 December 1982 and ratified it on the 7 November 2003, entering into force exactly a month later. As of August of this year, 165 countries plus the European Union have signed the Convention, with the notable exception of US.

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