Crunch talks between four countries – including Ireland and the UK – on territorial rights to a massive oil rich area in the north Atlantic have been postponed due to elections, it was confirmed today.
A template for a deal was secured when officials from Ireland, Britain, Denmark and Iceland met in Copenhagen last November in the latest round of negotiations on the division of the Rockall basin.
It is understood Iceland is reluctant to agree to the compromise but Britain and Denmark, which claims rights to Rockall through its dependency the Faroe Islands, have both voiced support.
Further talks were due to take place tomorrow in Dublin but have been postponed due to parliamentary elections in the Faroe Islands.
“Communications are under way to establish a new date for talks,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
Officially known as the Rockall-Hatton basin, the vast area lies around 200 miles from the north-west of Ireland, the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland and the southern coast of Iceland.
It covers 162,935 sq miles – about five times the size of Ireland – and is believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits.
Rockall island is a virtually inaccessible pudding shaped rock 110ft across and rises 63ft out of the Atlantic.
Under a new United Nations treaty, states will be allowed to claim a greater share of the ocean floor if they can show an undisputed direct link with their own land mass, but they must apply before a May 2009 closing date.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern said he was confident that further progress could be made when talks resume, although it is understood a final deal is not likely to be agreed in Dublin.
The Rockall meetings, which have been going on for five years, are part of wider moves by countries to lay claim to vast areas of the ocean in the search for new reserves of hydrocarbons and minerals.
Each of the four countries is keen to safeguard its rights over the rich seabed surrounding the rock.
Ireland has already lodged a joint application, along with France, Spain and the UK, for a 60,000 sq km plot straddling the Celtic Sea and the Bay of Biscay.