International

Key Antarctica Meetings Begin In Kochi On May 20 Under Shadow Of Ukraine Conflict

The 10-day deliberations among signatory nations to the Antarctic Treaty are expected to focus on collaboration between parties on research and exchanging information on plans for sustainable management of resources in the icy continent.

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Key Antarctica Meetings Begin In Kochi | Photo: Representational Image
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The 46th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting begins in Kochi on Monday under the shadow of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, an issue that has been affecting the discussions for the past two years.

The 10-day deliberations among signatory nations to the Antarctic Treaty are expected to focus on collaboration between parties on research and exchanging information on plans for sustainable management of resources in the icy continent.

Also on the agenda for the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) is the development of a framework for regulating tourism in Antarctica, given the pristine and delicate nature of the continent, and applications by Belarus and Canada for consultative status at the deliberations.

"We expect the Ukraine conflict to figure in the talks and we have to ensure that it doesn't affect the meeting in a big way," a senior official closely involved in the ATCM's organisation said.

Russia and Ukraine have consultative status or full decision-making roles at the ATCM, which takes all decisions by a consensus.

Russia's increase in surveys of the Antarctic region for oil and gas reserves has also caused some anxiety among the partner nations, some of which believe that Moscow may stake claim to large swathes of the continent.

Union Earth Sciences Minister Kiren Rijiju is scheduled to formally inaugurate the ATCM at the Lulu Bolgatty International Convention Centre in Kochi on Tuesday.

The ATCM and the 26th Meeting of the Committee for Environmental Protection is hosted by the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences through the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research.

The meeting is also expected to deliberate on the development of a framework for tourism in Antarctica -- the only continent without any indigenous population.

For the 2022-23 season, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators reported 32,730 cruise-only visitors, 71,346 landed visitors and 821 deep-field visitors.

The ATCM has 56 member-nations, of which 29 have consultative status or decision-making powers. The remainder have non-consultative status.

Canada and Belarus are seeking consultative status but their petitions have run into opposition.

Officials said the argument against Canada's candidature is that the North American nation does not have a research station in Antarctica while the scientific output of Belarus is not considered to be adequate for granting consultative status.

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