The great “whisky war” between Denmark and Canada – their friendly territorial dispute over a barren and uninhabited rock in the Arctic – has come to an end after 49 years.
The disagreement over who owns the half-square-mile Hans Island has been a source of cordial friction between the two nations for decades.
But now the countries have agreed to divide the tiny island between them in a move they hope will send a “clear signal” that border disputes can be resolved peacefully and pragmatically.
Canada and Denmark agreed in 1973 to create a border through the Nares Strait, halfway between Greenland and Canada, but they were unable to agree which country would have sovereignty over Hans Island, about 684 miles south of the North Pole.
In the end, they decided to work out the question of ownership later.
In the following years, the territorial dispute – nicknamed the “whisky war” by media – raised its head multiple times.
In 1984, Denmark’s minister of Greenland affairs raised a Danish flag on the island, buried a bottle of Danish schnapps at the base of the flagpole and left a note saying: “Welcome to the Danish island.”
Not to be outdone, Canadians then planted their own Maple Leaf flag on the island and left behind a bottle of Canadian brandy.
The “dispute” would rumble on for decades, with the two countries taking it in turns to hoist their colours and leave bottles of spirits.
The new agreement comes into force after the two countries’ internal procedures have been completed. In Denmark, the parliament must first give its consent to the agreement.
“It sends a clear signal that it is possible to resolve border disputes… in a pragmatic and peaceful way, where all the parties become winners,” said Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod.
He said it was “an important signal now that there is much war and unrest in the world”.