(OTTAWA) Canada and Denmark on Tuesday prepared to finally end their decades-long “war” fought over flags, whiskey and liquor on a deserted and uninhabited island in the Arctic.
Posted at 3:08pm
The two countries will formally announce an agreement to share Hans Island off northwest Greenland to create Canada’s first land border with Europe at a signing ceremony in Ottawa, attended by Canada’s foreign minister and her Danish counterpart.
In a benign stalemate for 49 years, the conflict will therefore result in the kidney-shaped island being split in two and the Ottawa-Copenhagen Accord being upheld as a model for resolving territorial disputes around the world.
“The Arctic serves as a beacon of international cooperation where the rule of law prevails,” said Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly.
“As global security is threatened, it has never been more important for democracies like Canada and Denmark to work together with indigenous peoples to resolve our differences in accordance with international law,” she said.
Hans Island, with an area of 1.3 km2, lies between Ellesmere Island in northern Canada and Greenland, a Danish territory. The dispute dates back to 1973, when a maritime border was drawn between the two countries.
Danes and Canadians have taken turns helicoptering to the island to claim territory, prompting diplomatic protests, online campaigns and even calls for Canada to boycott Danish pastries.
whiskey or liquor
On these visits, each side hoisted a flag and left a bottle of whiskey or liquor for the other side.
The snow-capped island is uninhabitable, but the effects of climate change are bringing increasing shipping traffic to the Arctic, opening it up to greater exploitation of its resources, particularly fishing.
However, according to Arctic expert Michael Byers, the island is “so extraordinarily remote that it is not viable to consider serious activity there.”
Delaying any resolution of this unusual conflict indefinitely has long presented an opportunity for political backlash for either party, particularly ahead of elections.
“It was a completely risk-free sovereignty dispute between two NATO allies over a tiny, insignificant island,” Byers told AFP.
Denmark also feared that losing that battle over Hans Island would undermine its relationship with Greenland, while Canada feared that defeat would weaken its negotiating positions with the United States in a dispute over this time hydrocarbon-rich country.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “has not made Arctic sovereignty a part of his political identity,” according to Michael Byers, which has helped “lower the temperature,” at least on the Canadian side.
“But more importantly, Russia has invaded Ukraine and that created the opportune moment to tell the world that the countries responsible are peacefully settling their territorial disputes,” he added.