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‘Whiskey Wars’: Denmark and Canada end 50-year border dispute on Arctic island

Denmark and Canada have decided to officially end their more than 50-year “lightweight” dispute over an uninhabited Arctic island.

Dubbed the ‘Whiskey Wars’, the NATO allies had been fighting over Hans Island, located equidistant between Greenland and Canada’s Ellesmere Island, since 1971, when the dispute erupted during a bilateral meeting to discuss territorial borders.

The conflict earned the nickname “Whisky War” due to military ships visiting the island and planting flags and bottles of Canadian whiskey or Danish schnapps to mark their territory.

Under the new agreement, the two countries will hold joint possession of the 1.2 square kilometer rock mound. The new border will divide the island roughly in half, following a natural ravine from north to south.

“We are setting a precedent. We are showing other countries how territorial disputes can be resolved,” Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said after a signing ceremony in Ottawa.

“It is possible to settle a disagreement, and it is always the best way to do so through principles and standards that both parties recognize.”

“I think it was the friendliest of all wars,” Joly said, joking that she hopes Canada can now enter the Eurovision Song Contest because of its land border with Europe.

Joly and his Danish counterpart, Minister Jeppe Kofod, exchanged bottles of liquor at the ceremony marking the tradition, Politico reported.

The agreement will preserve freedom of movement on the island for Arctic Inuit, for hunting, fishing and other activities.

The deal will be signed once the two countries have given parliamentary approval and will see the island split along a natural cleft in the rocky outcrop, according to an agreement released by the Danish Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.

Once signed, Canada and Denmark will have established the longest maritime border in the world at 3,882 km.

(With agency contributions)

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