Canada, Denmark agree to resolve dispute over Arctic island

A Danish warship is on its way to plant a flag on an Arctic island near Greenland, in the latest move of a territorial spat between Copenhagen and Ottawa.

Canada and Denmark have agreed on a process to resolve their dispute over Hans Island, an uninhabited Arctic rock between Ellesmere Island and Greenland.

Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew met with his Danish counterpart, Per Stig Moller, in New York Monday.

He said the two countries will work together to try "to put this issue behind us."

But Pettigrew reiterated that Canada has sovereignty over Hans Island.

The dispute over the island has long simmered but it was rekindled in July when Defence Minister Bill Graham landed there and erected a Canadian flag.

In August, Denmark retaliated by sending a warship to plant a Danish flag on the 1.3-square-kilometre Hans Island, which lies off the northwest coast of Greenland and has been claimed by both Canada and Denmark.

Danish officials said that an earlier flag had blown down.

Canada and Denmark agreed in 1973 to create a border through Nares Strait, halfway between Greenland, a semi-autonomous Danish territory, and Canada's Ellesmere Island. But they were unable to agree which country would have sovereignty over Hans Island, which lies about 1,100 kilometres south of the North Pole, and various other Arctic islands in the area.

In the end, they decided to work out the question of ownership later.

The decision has caused friction more than once. In 1984, Denmark's minister of Greenland affairs raised a Danish flag on the island.

He then buried a bottle of brandy at the base of the flagpole and left a note saying "Welcome to the Danish island."