The Maldives has said that it cannot resolve the sovereignty dispute over the Chagos Archipelago.
Deputy Attorney General, Khadeeja Shabeen said this while giving the closing statement at the second round of oral pleadings for Preliminary Objections regarding the Dispute Concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary between Mauritius and Maldives in the Indian Ocean, arranged by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
Maldives final submission, which was read out by Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath, says that the country “requests the Special Chamber to adjudge and declare that it is without jurisdiction in respect of the claims submitted to the Special Chamber by Mauritius. Additionally or alternatively, for the reasons set out during the written and oral phases of the pleadings, Maldives requests the Special Chamber to adjudge and declare that the claims submitted to the Special Chamber by Mauritius are inadmissible.”
During her statement, Deputy AG Shabeen noted that the Maldives “has the highest regard for the International Court of Justice”, and stressed that the country does not agree that Mauritius’ “sovereignty dispute with the United Kingdom over the Chagos Archipelago has been definitely resolved”.
We look forward to the day when Mauritius and the United Kingdom will finally resolve this dispute and bring to an end this chapter in their bilateral relations. That day would allow the Maldives to conclude an agreement on maritime delimitation without any impediments. But the time is not now, and the forum is not this Special Chamber.
~ Khadeeja Shabeen, Deputy AG
Stressing that the Maldives “has no dispute with Mauritius”, the deputy AG described Mauritius’ accusations that Maldives has been ‘aiding and abetting colonialism’ as “deeply unfair”.
It is deeply offensive for Mauritius’ counsel to refer to the Maldives as parroting the words of others. We trust that the Co-Agent of Mauritius will distance himself from such insulting remarks in the spirit of the dignified and friendly relations that our two nations have long enjoyed”
~ Khadeeja Shabeen, Deputy AG
Further noting that the Maldives “is facing existential challenges particularly due to rising sea levels that fundamentally threaten the island nation’s security and development”, Shabeen said that Maldives wishes “to maintain friendly relations with both Mauritius and the United Kingdom” and to be left out of the dispute between both countries.
Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath echoed this while reading out Maldives’ final submissions on the matter.
I must emphasize our sincere wish to maintain friendly and constructive relations with our brothers and sisters in Mauritius. In that spirit, we hereby invite Mauritius, if it so wishes, to enter into discussions with the Maldives, to explore whether our differing views on the ICJ Advisory Opinion could be submitted for the ICJ itself to decide. We also remain open to considering any other means of cooperation that Mauritius may wish to propose”
~ Ibrahim Riffath, Attorney General
The Maldives officials also described Mauritius’ actions as rushed, which AG Riffath also noted during his opening statement earlier this week.
He said that Mauritius had rushed to bring said proceedings as a pretext for resolving its sovereignty dispute with UK.
While the Chagos Archipelago was separated from Mauritius in 1965, when Mauritius was still a British colony, Mauritius claims it was forced to give it up in exchange for independence.
While the United Nations General Assembly, in May 2019, voted in favour of Chagos Islands being returned - 116 states backed the moved while six voted against - UK failed return control of the territory by the given six-month deadline.
Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has since described the United Kingdom as “an illegal colonial occupier”.
UK said that it does not recognize Mauritius’ claim to sovereignty, adding that it “has no doubt as to [its] sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory, which has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814”.
A statement issued by the Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that "Mauritius has never held sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory”.