18 May 2016

Mauritius: Government has requested that the Chagos Archipelago be returned by the United Kingdom, says PM

press release

Government has requested that the Chagos Archipelago be returned by the United Kingdom to the effective control of Mauritius by a precise date to be agreed upon and proposed that consideration could be given to the joint management of the Chagos Archipelago pending its return to Mauritius. Government has also asked for a reply to be given to its request by the end of June 2016, otherwise Mauritius would take appropriate action at the international level, including at the United Nations. The need for a precise date to be set for the return of the Chagos Archipelago to the effective control of Mauritius was also stressed during bilateral talks last week.

This reply was given yesterday in the National Assembly by the Prime Minister, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, to a Private Notice Question in regard to the sovereignty of Mauritius over the Chagos Archipelago and over the Tromelin Island respectively

The Prime Minister referred to the Award delivered on 18 March 2015 by the Arbitral Tribunal in the case brought by Mauritius against the United Kingdom to challenge the "marine protected area‟ which the United Kingdom purported to establish around the Chagos Archipelago.

He highlighted that Mauritius does not recognise the so-called "British Indian Ocean Territory" which the United Kingdom purported to create by illegally excising the Chagos Archipelago from the territory of Mauritius prior to its accession to independence, in violation of international law and United Nations General Assembly Resolutions 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, 2066(XX) of 16 December 1965, 2232 (XXI) of 20 December 1966 and 2357 (XXII) of 19 December 1967.Government is sparing no efforts so that Mauritius can effectively exercise its sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago and the Island of Tromelin, he added.

He underscored that the Tribunal unanimously held that the "marine protected area‟ which the United Kingdom purported to establish around the Chagos Archipelago in April 2010 violates international law. It ruled that the United Kingdom had breached its obligations under Articles 2(3), 56(2) and 194(4) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Sir Anerood Jugnauth underlined that in reaching these conclusions, the Tribunal made a number of important findings and found that the United Kingdom's commitments towards Mauritius in relation to fishing rights and oil and mineral rights in the Chagos Archipelago and its surrounding waters are legally binding. Moreover, the Tribunal found that the United Kingdom's undertaking to return the Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius when no longer needed for defence purposes is legally binding. The Tribunal went on to hold that the United Kingdom had not respected Mauritius binding legal rights over the Chagos Archipelago, he added.

Following the delivery of the Award, the Prime Minister stated that he wrote to the British Prime Minister on 14 April and 14 May 2015 to indicate that Mauritius stands ready to enter into negotiations with the United Kingdom, on the understanding that the latter shall fully respect the rights of Mauritius under UNCLOS and international law.

The Prime Minister also pointed out that the United Kingdom had illegally excised the Chagos Archipelago from the territory of Mauritius prior to its accession to independence and also referred to the undertaking which the United Kingdom had given to Mauritius on several occasions, including during meetings which he had with his British counterparts in the past.

He underscored that if the UK were to honour its promise by returning the Chagos Archipelago to the effective control of Mauritius, this would contribute to completing the decolonisation process of Mauritius and would be a win-win situation for both countries.

As regards to Tromelin the Prime Minister underlined that pending the settlement of the sovereignty dispute between Mauritius and France over the Island of Tromelin, the two countries reached an agreement in 2010 on the co-management of the Island of Tromelin, without prejudice to the sovereignty of Mauritius over the island and has proposed to take up the issue of sovereignty over the Island of Tromelin with the French President at his next meeting with him.

He pointed out that in the meantime, he had the opportunity to raise the issue of the sovereignty over the Island of Tromelin with the French Ambassador and other French dignitaries.

He recalled that he has informed the President of the French National Assembly that Mauritius might have to reconsider its position if the French authorities do not show greater interest in moving forward the ratification process of the agreement on co-management of the Island of Tromelin in the French Parliament.

The Prime Minister concluded by reaffirming the commitment of Government to ensure that the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Mauritius are fully respected and safeguarded and added that it has always been the unequivocal stand of Mauritius that the Chagos Archipelago, including Diego Garcia, and the Island of Tromelin form an integral part of the territory of Mauritius.

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