Congress members from Argentina and Chile signed a statement supporting the full enforcement of the Antarctic Treaty and reiterated their common position against the United Kingdom’s announced intention of extending claims over the continental shelf.
Chile, Argentina and Britain all claim rights over the same slices of the southernmost continent. This is important for more than the few scientists who live and work in Antarctica, since under a UN law of the sea treaty, coastal countries can control hundreds of miles of continental shelf off their sovereign territories.
The announcement was made at the President Eduardo Frei Chilean Antarctic base where five members of each of the two countries Lower House Foreign Affairs Committees held a joint solemn ceremony to underscore what they also described as evidence of “the true excellent relations between Argentina and Chile”.
Claims involving Antarctica were tabled for 50 years under the 1959 treaty protecting the continent's fragile environment and ensuring international cooperation. But the offshore rights have become much more important recently given the global race to secure future energy sources and with undersea resources in mind, several countries have made claims over parts of Antarctica.
Under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea each coastal nation's sovereignty could be extended over its continental shelf from 230 miles to 350 miles off shore. But the claims must first be approved by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which faces a May deadline to announce its decisions.
Other nations asserting claims over the seas around Antarctica include Russia, Brazil, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, France, Spain and Norway.
“What Britain has done is precisely change the original pretence extending it to new areas of Antarctic territory and therefore does not proceed in conformity of law. Together with our Argentine colleagues we reaffirm and categorically reject in the most definitive and decisive manner the pretence of Britain to extend its claims”, said Renán Fuentealba chairman of Chile’s Foreign Affairs committee.
The event coincides with the half century of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty which is based on international cooperation, scientific research and conservation of the environment and the use of the icy continent for peaceful purposes.
Lawmakers said they reaffirm their willingness to continue with total abidance of the Antarctic Treaty instruments; support actions by their governments to preserve their countries’ rights over the Antarctic continental shelf and finally are committed to making peaceful use of the continent, as well as cooperation for the development of scientific research and defence of the environment”.
The Argentine delegation of five was headed by the chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee, Ruperto Godoy.