UN backs Norway claim to Arctic seabed extension
OSLO (AFP) — Norway has won the backing of the UN in its sovereignty claim over a potentially resource rich area of seabed, including a region in the much-courted Arctic Ocean, the government said Wednesday.
Based on the evidence supplied by Norway in 2006, the UN Commission for the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) approved Oslo’s claim to the vast chunks of seabed in the Norwegian Sea, the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean.
“All that remains is to incorporate (the decision) into Norwegian law and then the extension of our continental shelf will be effective,” said Rolf Einar Fife, director of legal affairs at the Norway’s foreign ministry.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) stipulates that any coastal state can claim territory 200 nautical miles from their shoreline and exploit the natural resources within that zone. Nations can also extend that limit to up to 350 nautical miles from their coast if they can provide scientific proof that the undersea continental plate is a natural extension of their territory.
The CLCS decision means Norway’s continental shelf has been extended by 235,000 square kilometres (146,000 square miles), or “the equivalent of seven football pitches” for each Norwegian citizen out of a population of 4.8 million, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said. The decision means Norway will benefit from exploitation rights in almost two million square kilometres in the Arctic region, Fife added.
However, Norway has yet to agree with Russia how to share one chunk of the Barents Sea in its newly extended continental shelf, the so-called Loophole, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas. The CLCS found both had a legitimate claim to the area and said it was up to the two countries to find a sharing agreement between themselves.
The five countries bordering the Arctic Ocean — Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Norway, Russia and the United States — dispute the sovereignty over parts of the region, believed to contain vast amounts of untapped oil and gas reserves.
Disputed zone in the Barents Sea
Since 1974, Norway and Russia have negotiated over the delineation of the 175,000 square kilometer disputed zone in the Barents Sea. After the last common meeting between the Norwegian and Russian Foreign Ministers in Moscow in late March, BarentsObserver.com wrote that Mr. Lavrov said that “significant progress” has been made in talks about the delimitation of the disputed zone in the Barents Sea. Also Foreign Minister Støre noted that the atmosphere in the talks is good.
Stoltenberg to Moscow
It is expected that the issue again will be on the agenda when Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg will meet Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow on May 19th.