Arctic nations in summit rift

polar-bear1The ongoing political manoeuvring over Arctic borders was addressed at a meeting of five arctic nations in the Canadian city of Chelsea; but those excluded ended up overshadowing the whole event.

Foreign ministers from Denmark, Norway, Canada, Russia and the US assembled yesterday in Canada in an endeavour to reach agreement over the fate of the Arctic boundaries. According to the Copenhagen Post, the region is an area of intense interest for all parties involved, due to its immense natural resources. Denmark’s justice minister Lars Barfoed, was joined by the foreign minister for Russia Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at the meeting.

The five countries involved, particularly Russia, have been jostling for political and physical presence in the region, which has enormous financial potential and highly valued resources such as oil fields.

However, Canada was the only participant in the end of day press conference and Hillary Clinton had left the summit early in support of Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Arctic indigenous peoples excluded from the meeting. Canada and Norway moved to quash dissent saying that the five-nation forum is useful but that it is not intended as a replacement for the Arctic Council which includes Finland, Iceland and Sweden.

Yesterday’s meeting comes at a time where military analysts in Canada have reported that a worrying military build-up is being undertaken in the Arctic. A recent study revealed that there are currently up to 66 combat-ready warships in the region, specifically designed to operate in icy conditions.

Russia has been the most demonstrative of its claim on the North Pole borders, administering a high military presence along the Norwegian border in recent months. However, the United Nations Commission will ultimately decide on how the boundaries are divided.

Meanwhile, Denmark has been involved in a minor dispute with Canada over the small Hans Island off North-western Greenland, with the Canadian media reporting that representatives from both sides have been involved in recent talks in Copenhagen.

The Arctic meeting in Canada coincided with a G8 foreign ministers meeting on global security and terrorism.

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