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Maldives defends UN vote on Chagos Islands dispute

The Maldives government has defended its vote against a UN resolution calling on the United Kingdom to cede sovereignty over the Chagos archipelago to Mauritius, contending that support would have undermined a bid to extend Maldivian territorial waters.

The Maldives stood out at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday with Britain, Australia, Hungary, Israel and the United States – which operates a military base on the island of Diego Garcia about 310 miles south of the Maldives – prompting criticism for siding with the small minority as 116 countries voted in favour and 56 countries abstained.

The non-binding resolution endorsed an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice that Britain had wrongfully detached the Chagos Islands from its former colony Mauritius in 1965. An estimated 1,800 Diego Garcia islanders who were forcibly evicted to construct the joint US-UK airbase were not permitted to return.

The foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday that the Maldives could not support any proposal that diminishes the country’s territorial integrity as laid out by the 2008 constitution and domestic law.

Mauritius had objected to the UN secretary general when a claim was filed in 2010 under the Law of the Sea Convention to delimit the continental shelf between the Maldives and Chagos, it added, arguing that taking a stand in the Chagos islands dispute would have “raised questions about the submission to the UN on Maldives territory.”

The stance reflected foreign policy followed since 1990 by successive governments, the ministry noted.

In an explanatory statement before the vote, Maldives permanent representative Thilmeeza Hussain said the resolution “prejudges” the 2010 submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

“Without due process and clarity on the legal implications of the contested matter, Maldives is not in a position to support the resolution solely as a matter of decolonisation,” the permanent representative said.

“For the Maldives, any uncertainty concerning the issue of the Chagos archipelago will have serious implications for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and the wider security of the Indian Ocean region.”

She reiterated support for the UN’s decolonisation processes and stressed that the decision “should not be construed as a vote or a position taken against the co-sponsors of the resolution, with whom we have excellent relations.”

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Source URL:  Maldives Independent

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