SANTIAGO, June 25 (Xinhua) -- The on-going 60th conference of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) saw some hope of breaking the stalemate on Wednesday as proponents and opponents of more whaling reached a consensus on reconciling their differences.
The bloc decided to appoint a 24-country working group to coordinate different stances and try to come up with an agreement on 33 issues including Japan's proposal on resuming commercial whale hunting and some Latin American countries' suggestion to establish sanctuaries for whales, the two most controversial issues that have sparked heated debate during the conference, while either side seems unlikely to secure the 75 percent of votes needed for approval by rule if any voting is conducted.
The working group will include such pro-whaling countries as Japan, Iceland and Norway and whale defenders such as Australia and New Zealand.
No deadline has been set for such an agreement, but a report is expected to be submitted by the working group during next year's IWC conference in Madeira, Portugal.
Participants of the conference, scheduled for Monday-Friday, acknowledged that the prospect of reaching an agreement is uncertain but hailed it as at least a step in the right direction.
The decision was adopted "to strengthen the use of consensus and reduce the use of votes as a political instrument," said Chilean delegate Christian Maquieira.
"The important thing is that Japan has for the first time agreed to let its research hunting be brought to the negotiation table," Maquieira said.
British delegate Richard Cowan hailed the decision, saying that his delegation is "very pleased with the launching of this process."
His U.S. counterpart Doug de Master said Washington "sees with good eyes the advances of this meeting."
The working group initiative, however, excluded the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGO).
Environmental groups said the closed-door style of the working group failed to "inspire reliance."
The international ecologist organization Greenpeace said in a statement that "it is deplorable that the IWC has kept us away."
The meeting on Wednesday officially postponed their discussion on the establishment of sanctuaries for whales, a decision favored by countries seeking an increase in whaling such as Japan.
The decision was adopted after those Latin American countries that had proposed the establishment of sanctuaries to protect whales and to seek the promotion of the whale-watching industry as an alternative to whale killings, agreed to make a concession to avoid confrontation and in order to support the working group's dialogue, Maquieira said.
The IWC resolution was criticized by environmental organizations.
The environmentalists also called on Japan to make more concessions before the working group's report, namely, end Japaní»s scientific whale hunting, a cover, as whale defenders said, for commercialization.
Japan's whaling has emerged as the toughest issue on the IWC agenda and the focus of a long debate on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Japan for the first time presented a report on its whaling activities, which admitted that hunting is a factor for changes in the Antarctic ecosystem.
Japan, calling for more whaling, seeks new whaling rights off the Japanese coast and special rights for whaling to four Japanese coastal communities during the conference, arguing many species and stock of whales are abundant.
The country kills some 1,400 whales per year, 40 percent of which are pregnant, Cowan said earlier.