Maldives requests ITLOS to declare Mauritius claims inadmissible

Maldives has requested the Special Chamber of International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to declare the claims submitted by Mauritius on maritime boundary delimitation with the Maldives are out of its jurisdiction.

The statement was made by Deputy Attorney General Khadeeja Shabeen, while delivering the closing remarks of the Maldives at the second round of oral pleadings for preliminary objections regarding the maritime boundary delimitation dispute between Mauritius and the Maldives. The dispute was sent to the ITLOS by Mauritius due to the overlap of Mauritian territorial waters with the Maldives Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the waters between Addu City and Chagos Archipelago.

Speaking at the hearing, Deputy AG Shabeen said the Maldives does not agree that sovereignty dispute between Mauritius and the UK over the Chagos Archipelago has been definitely resolved. Shabeen said the Maldives looks forward to the day when Mauritius and the UK will finally resolve this dispute and end this chapter in their bilateral relations. She added that day would allow the Maldives to conclude an agreement on maritime delimitation without any impediments. However, she said the time for these proceedings is not now, and the forum for it is not the Special Chamber of ITLOS.

Speaking further, the Deputy AG stressed the Maldives has no disputes with Mauritius, a country with which the Maldives enjoys friendly relations. She described Mauritius’ accusations that Maldives has been aiding and abetting colonialism as deeply unfair, noting the Maldives cannot be expected to take sides in the dispute between the Mauritius and the UK. She added the Maldives wishes to maintain friendly relations with both Mauritius and the UK, and to be left out of the dispute between the two countries.

The Chagos Islands had been part of Mauritius since the 18th century until 1965, when the UK split the archipelago from the territory of Mauritius to form the British Indian Ocean Territory. In May 2019, the United Nations General Assembly voted in favour of Chagos Islands being returned to Mauritius. However, the UK failed return control of the territory by the given six-month deadline. UK has stated it does not recognise Mauritius’ claim to sovereignty over the Chagos Islands.