A strong controversy is expected following statements from Chilean officials who downplayed the significance of the recent UN continental shelf maritime extension referred to Argentina and which included the Falklands, South Atlantic Islands and Antarctica territory.
What the UN is saying is that there are 200 miles from the Argentine coast limit and they also include the Malvinas Islands, which obviously are British territory said Jose Retamales Espinoza, head of the Chilean Antarctic Institute.
He added that extending the outer limit of the continental shelf made by Argentina is nothing new or original, it has been done by other countries including the United Kingdom, Norway and Australia, and also involves some Antarctic territories.
Chile is also involved in studies to extend the outer limit of its continental shelf beyond the 200 maritime miles said Retamales Espinoza.
In effect that ice covered continental block is not Chilean, or Argentina or British, and no country recognizes the claims of any of the three, and none of the claimants and non claimants in that area are owners of not even one inch of that space underlined the Chilean official, whose offices are in Punta Arenas.
What matters is that this has no practical effects or significance for the future, it's a statement from a country which is saying: this is what I believe, but the international community does not necessarily accept it and the fact it was referred to by a UN office, which had to accept it as a country's position argued the head of Chile's Antarctic Institute.
And this does not affect the activities of any of the Antarctic Treaty members' activities.
In Antarctica there are no territorial claims, all those claims if they existed before 1959, when the Antarctica Treaty was signed are frozen. In fact many of the claims overlap and this is the case for the UK, Argentina and Chile, and can be easily checked in the maps of the different countries.
Retamales Espinoza speaking personally said I don't believe any time in the future this will lead to a problem since the Antarctic Treaty already includes 53 countries, and it seems quite impossible that any of the members involved will agree at one point to hand part of their claim to another country.
Chile's foreign minister Heraldo Muñoz was also quoted, and he denied validity to what was claimed regarding the outer limit of the Argentine continental shelf, since it contradicts the Law of the Sea.
Likewise the Chilean Interior minister Jorge Burgos said that claims referred to territorial extension and the Antarctic territory must be worked out 'in a friendly spirit, the Antarctic treaty spirit, as it has always been done'.
According to the recent announcement by Argentina, under the UN reference, the maritime outer limit of its continental shelf adds 1.7 million square kilometers, covering the Falklands, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands and the area named as Argentine Antarctica.
However the Argentine foreign minister Susana Malcorra admitted that the existence of a conflict regarding the Falklands/Malvinas Islands suspends the maritime extension. London and the Falklands government reject the Argentine aspiration.