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Greenland boycotts Arctic meeting after Swedish snub

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Greenland on Wednesday boycotted the biennial meeting of the Arctic Council after Sweden refused to accept its representatives on an equal footing with other members, its prime minister said.

"Until Sweden took over the chairmanship in 2011, Denmark had three chairs at the table with a representative for each part of the Danish commonwealth," Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond told Greenland daily Sermistiaq.

Arctic Greenland, along with the Faeroe Islands, is part of the Danish Commonwealth. Under a home rule agreement with Denmark, Greenland has full control of its raw materials and internal affairs, while decisions on defence and international affairs reside with Denmark.

"When the Swedes took over, the commonwealth was only given one chair and Greenland and the Faeroe Islands had to sit behind and not directly in the negotiations," Hammond added, saying she feared that a new Canadian chairmanship would adopt the same principle.

Hammond added that at a meeting Tuesday the commonwealth delegation had decided to demand two chairs at the negotiating table, but that the other members of the council were unlikely to agree.

The Arctic Council is composed of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States.

Both US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took part in Wednesday's meeting.

Although Hammond said Denmark fully supported the Greenland move, Danish Foreign Minister Villy Soevndal was more cautious on arrival for the meeting in Kiruna.

"Denmark regrets that Greenland's government has not wanted to take part as there are important issues on the agenda," Soevndal told reporters.

"We hope that there will soon be basis for Greenland to fully resume its place in the Arctic Council's work and we will be working actively to achieve that," he added.

Hammond won an overwhelming victory in Greenland's March elections on a ticket of increased independence for the vast Arctic territory.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130515/greenland-boycotts-arctic-meeting-after-swedish-snub