Maldives Wins Additional Territory in EEZ Dispute with Chagos Archipelago

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International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has decided that the disputed territory between the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of the Maldives and the Chagos Archipelago should have a majority share allocated to the Maldives. This ruling ensures that the southern region of the Maldives remains under its control. The decision was made after ITLOS examined documents, evidence, satellite images and scientific data presented by the Maldives.

The EEZ between the Maldives and the Chagos Archipelago covers an area of 95,000sqkm, but the sovereignty of Chagos has not been established. If the two countries cannot agree on the conflicting territory, international rules dictate that the separation will be based on the principle of equidistance. However, Mauritius and the Maldives disagreed on where the separation should begin. Mauritius argued that separation should start from Blenheim Reef, but the Maldives disputed this as it is not considered a dry land suitable for separation.

Based on the evidence presented by the Maldives, ITLOS rejected Mauritius’ proposal to begin separation from Blenheim Reef, and instead allocated an additional 4,600sqkm of territory to the Maldives.

In 2017, the United Nations General Assembly sought an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the sovereignty of the Chagos Archipelago. The ICJ issued an advisory opinion in February 2019. A resolution was subsequently submitted to the UNGA in May 2019, calling for the handover of the Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius within six months. However, the resolution was voted against after Mauritius objected to the Maldives’ proposal to extend its continental shelf in 2010 to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS).