The United States and Russian will send a joint team to inspect foreign stations, installations and equipment in Antarctica pursuant to the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and its Environmental Protocol from January 23 to January 28, the US State Department announced Saturday.
The US-Russian team will review "adherence by Treaty Parties to their obligations, including with respect to limiting environmental impacts, ensuring that Antarctica is used only for peaceful purposes and that Parties honor the prohibition on measures of a military nature," the Department said in a statement.
The State Department and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will co-lead the inspection, which is the first joint inspection conducted by either country. The US National Science Foundation (NSF) (US Antarctic Program) and the Russian Antarctic Expedition will support the joint inspection. The US last conducted an Antarctic inspection in 2006.
The State Department coordinates US policy on Antarctica with NSF and other federal agencies. It leads diplomatic efforts within the framework established by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, signed in Washington, to ensure Antarctica's status as a continent reserved for peace and science. Currently 49 nations are signatories of the treaty, which sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve where military activity is banned.
Signed in 1991, the environmental protocol provides for environmental impact assessments and waste management, and designates protected areas in order to safeguard the pristine region's marine environment and its flora and fauna.