The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued today a statement in relation to the naming of the southern part of British Antarctic Territory Queen Elizabeth Land.
On 18 December Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that the southern part of the British Antarctic Territory had been named ‘Queen Elizabeth Land’ in honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and her Diamond Jubilee.
In its statement the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reminded that Russia was one of the original parties to the Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959 and calling for the full, unconditional and responsible compliance by all State parties with its provisions. The agreement was signed by 12 countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Britain, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the United States, and the then Soviet Union). It made the Antarctic continent a demilitarized zone to be preserved for scientific research.
According to the Russians, ‘no acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica and do not create any rights of sovereignty in Antarctica.’
The British Foreign Office informed that the area of Queen Elizabeth Land, which was previously unnamed, is around 169,000 square miles (437,000 sq km), making up just under a third of the whole land mass of the British Antarctic Territory. This is almost twice the size of the UK, which stands at 94,000 square miles (244,000 sq km).
However, the area is claimed also by Argentina which, according to British media, had already summoned the British ambassador to Buenos Aires over the issue.
Interesting to point out is that the 1959 Treaty did not deny or support national claims to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica. So far, seven countries have made eight official claims to unclaimed areas (terrae nullius) in the Antarctic -the UK, Argentina, New Zealand, France, Norway (2), Australia and Chile.