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Vol. 15, No. 21 Week of May 23, 2010
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Canada wants Beaufort pact

What works for Russia and Norway should work for Canada and the United States when it comes to resolving a drawn-out dispute over the territorial boundary in the Beaufort Sea, said Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon.

In making an open appeal to the U.S. to embark on serious negotiations, he noted that Russia and Norway have recently resolved their own long-standing disagreement over Arctic sovereignty.

Delivering the keynote address at the 40th annual Washington Conference on the Americas, Cannon said Canada and the U.S. ought to be able to do the same “as economic partners and best friends, sharing the longest border in the world.”

But the two countries have been unable to settle the offshore Beaufort dividing line and controls over shipping in the Northwest Passage — both of critical importance with offshore oil and gas development in the spotlight and in the midst of international efforts to resolve the future of resource exploitation under a United Nations treaty on continental shelves. Cannon said the “extent to which there may be overlaps with the U.S. extended continental shelf in the Beaufort is not yet known, but that should not keep our two countries from resolving that dispute.”

He said the Gulf of Mexico disaster underscores the dangerous nature of offshore drilling, but noted that Arctic oil and gas production could be a “commercial activity of immense potential.”

University of British Columbia professor Michael Buyers, who specializes in global politics and international law and is author of Who Owns the Arctic?, said Cannon’s speech is evidence of a Canadian government desire to resolve Arctic boundary disagreements.

He also said Canada’s apparent willingness to enter negotiations, taking up a U.S. invitation — an interpretation echoed by a spokeswoman for Cannon who said the minister’s speech was intended to send a clear message: “Let’s talk about this and accelerate it.”

—Gary Park



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