SANTIAGO, CHILE — Ten Chilean and Argentine lawmakers gathered Thursday in the Antarctic to stake territorial rights after the U.K. laid claim to a wide swath of ocean bottom off the frozen continent, officials said.
The aim of the meeting “is to strengthen our nation’s legal position in the Antarctic Territory…and to support all the legal instruments of the Antarctic Treaty System, or ATS, including the (1998) Antarctic-Environmental Protocol,” Chile’s Chamber of Deputies said in a statement.
Chile and Argentina’s territorial rights claims came in response to a U.K. bid submitted to the U.N. in October 2007 for sovereignty over more than one million square kilometers of seabed off Antarctica.
A U.N. decision on U.K.’s territorial bid, which would grant the country access to potential oil and gas reserves up to 350 miles off Antarctica, is expected in May of this year.
The eight Chilean and two Argentine lawmakers met Thursday at the Chilean military base of Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva. A subsequent second meeting was set for Argentina’s Jubany military base also in Antarctica, the statement said.
A joint statement reaffirmed the neighboring countries’ support for the ATS and its environmental protocol.
Entered into force in 1961, the ATS has been signed by 46 countries, including the U.S. and U.K. It designates Antarctica as a scientific preserve, and bans military activity and territorial claims on the continent.
In the treaty, Antarctica is defined as all land and ice shelves south of 60 degrees south latitude, but doesn’t mention its continental shelf.
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