Denmark's Foreign Minister, Per Stig Moeller, raised eyebrows and drew laughs at a news conference here Tuesday on the eve of an Arctic Ocean conference after he described having serious discussions on polar issues with Maxime Bernier on Monday evening - and then discovering his Canadian counterpart was forced to resign an hour or two later.
Responding to a question about whether the summit of Arctic nations being held here Wednesday was likely to produce a consensus document about the region's future, Moeller referred to productive pre-conference negotiations with other foreign ministers that have brought the five nations - Denmark, Canada, Russia, Norway and the U.S. - to the brink of an accord.
"I consulted (Russian foreign minister Sergei) Lavrov this morning," Moeller stated, "and I talked with the Canadian foreign minister last night, who phoned - and I guess he resigned after the phone call - but I talked to him about 6 o'clock."
After a bout of laughter died down, Moeller added that Bernier "confirmed that they support this conference, and they support the outcome of the conference, so I guess we'll get a good result. We are pretty close, but let's just have negotiations over before I say it's a go."
Danish officials said afterwards that Bernier's abrupt ouster so soon after "substantive" talks with Moeller prompted calls between the two governments' legal experts to confirm that positions expressed by Bernier hours earlier - when he was still the minister - remained the valid views of Canada.Glad our Conservative government's foibles could entertain you all at the meeting...:) I'm sure Gary Lunn quite enjoyed the laughs too and what it was doing to our standing at the meeting.
One of the officials said Denmark received call from the office of Alan Kessel, the Foreign Affairs legal adviser attending the conference, and were offered formal reassurances about the conversation between Bernier and Moeller.
Moeller drew more chuckles in the news conference when responding to a question about a 2005 Danish-Canadian agreement related to research activities on disputed Hans Island, which he signed with the former Liberal foreign affairs minister Pierre Pettigrew.
"They change foreign ministers all the time . . . ," Moeller said, and the room erupted again. (emphasis added)
And with respect to Lunn, the B-team minister wasn't as up on everything as he could have been. Canada and Denmark dispute ownership over Hans Island which is near Greenland and the matter came up, unexpectedly at one point. The Greenlandic leader made a comment at the conference that essentially reminded all present that it asserted its right of ownership to the island. Lunn was unprepared:
Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, who is leading the Canadian delegation at the Greenland summit, said it would be "premature" for him to respond to Enoksen reviving the argument over Hans Island.Just nodding his head and sticking to the talking points, best he could do. It would be "premature" after all, for a Canadian Minister there on our behalf to respond to a public challenge on ownership of an island we supposedly contest. Heck, best to just let that go unaddressed. As Gary stated, not having an opportunity to call the home office yet for instructions, Lunn wouldn't dare stick out his neck. He clearly didn't know a thing about it. And that's our mediocre international representation just about now. Way to go, guy.
"I haven't had an opportunity to speak to anyone, so I'm not going to comment on that," Nunn said. "We're here to affirm Canada's Arctic sovereignty, our strong presence in the North, our vision with what we're doing . . . I'm not going to speculate on that."