Greenland building closer US relations, prime minister says – by Philip Stephens (Financial Times – March 6, 2014)

Greenland is building closer ties with the US as the international scramble for mineral and energy resources in the Arctic turns the region into an area of great strategic importance, according to its prime minister.

Aleqa Hammond told the Financial Times that the opening in January of a representative office in Washington was part of her strategy to deepen Greenland’s relations with the US.

Ms Hammond, who last year became Greenland’s first female prime minister, said she was committed to building on the Nuuk government’s direct ties with Washington.

The “pivot” towards the US forms part of wider geostrategic manoeuvring in the Arctic region as melting ice sheets reveal large deposits of oil, gas and minerals.

By US estimates, the Arctic may hold 13 per cent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 per cent of its untapped gas as well as untold mineral resources including iron ore, zinc and gold.

Greenland, which has 2m square kilometres of territory, almost four times the area of France, secured self-rule from Denmark in 2009, leaving external relations in the hands of Copenhagen. Ms Hammond’s ruling Siumut party is committed to eventual independence from Denmark.

Barack Obama’s administration has signalled recently it intends to pay closer attention to the region, publishing an “Arctic strategy” and appointing a special polar representative.

Ms Hammond said Washington, which has a three-way consultation mechanism with Greenland and Denmark, was “very much present in Greenland” through its air base at Thule in the north of the country and the operations of the US Geological Survey: “The survey does pioneering work in mapping the oil, gas and minerals,” she added.

Deeper co-operation with the US, she said, offered an alternative to Denmark for Greenlanders seeking wider educational opportunities because English, rather than Danish, was the language of international business.

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