United Nations : World agrees on '' historic '' deal to protect high seas.

UN member states finally agreed Saturday to a text on the first international treaty after years of negotiations to protect the high seas, a fragile and vital treasure that covers nearly half the planet.

''The ship has reached the shore,'' conference chair Rena Lee announced at the UN headquarters in New York shortly before 9:30 pm [0230 GMT Sunday], to loud and lengthy applause from delegates.

The exact wording of the text was not immediately released but activists hailed it as a breakthrough moment for the protection of biodiversity after more than 15 years of discussions.

The treaty is seen as essential to conserving 30 percent of the world's land and ocean by 2030, as agreed by world governments in a historic accord signed in Montreal in December.

''This is a historic day after conservation and a sign that in a divided world, protecting nature and people can triumph over geopolitics,'' said Greenpeace's Laura Meller.

EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius on Sunday called the treaty ''a crucial step forward to preserve the marine life and biodiversity that are essential for us and the generations to come.''

Following two weeks of intense talks, including a marathon overnight session Friday into Saturday, delegates finalized a text that now cannot be significantly altered.

''There will be no reopening or discussion of substance,'' Lee told negotiators.

The agreement will be formally adopted at a later date once it has been vetted by lawyers, she announced. [AFP]


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