North Pole up for grabs


The battle for the North Pole and Arctic Ocean resources has begun in earnest, according to Greenland’s Atugagdliutit newspaper.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) recently confirmed that Russia has submitted a request for rights over the North Pole and much of the Arctic Ocean, areas over which Greenland and Denmark also say they have scientific and judicial proof of ownership.

Greenland, Denmark and the United States have already lodged protests against the Russian request.

“We told UNCLOS that we want the right to work out our own concept, which may overlap with the Russians’ claim,” said Jorn Lilje-Jensen, an official with the Danish foreign affairs department.

Danish authorities maintain Greenland and Denmark can make a strong case for their jurisdiction because an undersea mountain ridge extends from the northern Greenlandic coast across the North Pole.

This mountain ridge appears to be connected to the Greenlandic continental base, so Greenland and Denmark may ask to extend the present marine boundary to 350 nautical miles from 200 nautical miles.

However, the Russians maintain this same mountain ridge extends all the way from Greenland to the Siberian peninsula, where it joins the Russian continental base.

According to Atuagagdliutit, surveys show the mountain ridge is not connected to Siberia. But if this turns out to be the case, the Russians are ready to argue that the sea floor is of a continental character, and there is a “sunken continent” connected to Siberia.

The international Law of the Sea says the UN can recommend a border that may conflict with demands from another state. When parties don’t agree, the Commission and the state concerned must negotiate an agreement.

No one knows how this judicial process will evolve, since Russia is the first nation to submit a request to the UNCLOS Commission.

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