Danes remind Canada Hans Island is part of Denmark on eve of meeting
Greenland premier makes blunt declaration despite diplomatic gestures
Randy Boswell, Canwest News ServicePublished: Wednesday, May 28
ILULISSAT, Greenland - The premier of Danish-controlled Greenland has re-launched the war of words over tiny Hans Island, rejecting Canada's claim to the disputed Arctic territory and describing how the indigenous people of Greenland took possession of it long before British, American or Canadian explorers ever reached the place.
The unexpected comments from Hans Enoksen, the native Greenlandic leader of the giant Danish province on Canada's northern doorstep, came on the eve of an Arctic Ocean summit billed by Denmark's top foreign official as a bid to cool the recent rhetoric over territorial claims in the polar region.
Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, responding to questions about the lingering disagreement between Canada and Denmark over the ownership of Hans Island, said the countries have arrived at a "reasonable solution to use it together" for Arctic research -- with no further flag-waving provocations by either side -- until historians and legal experts resolve the jurisdictional question.
Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller, right, arrives at Ilulissat airport, Greenland, on Tuesday for the Arctic Ocean Conference. Representatives from Greenland, Norway, Russia, Canada and the United States will also participate.
Agence France-Presse; Getty Images
"The co-operation is going well," Moeller said.
"We both adhere to the protocol, which means we agree to disagree about who owns it. As long as we have not found out who owns it, we are working together. And we are doing that. Officials are going into papers and into history and geography and some maps."
But just as Moeller was wrapping up, his conference co-host -- Enoksen -- interjected to make clear his views on the contested island, which lies between Greenland's west coast and Canada's Ellesmere Island.
Speaking in Greenlandic, Enoksen said through an interpreter: "We traditionally have already named the island 'The Kidney-Shaped Island' -- before it was named as it is now. So should anyone have any claims prior, they would have named it already before we did."
Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, who is leading the Canadian delegation at the Greenland summit, said it would be "premature" for him to respond to Enoksen reviving the argument over Hans Island.
"I haven't had an opportunity to speak to anyone, so I'm not going to comment on that," Nunn said.