Maldives to face UN committee over continental shelf extension

The Maldives will today claim an extension of its continental shelf before a UN committee in New York.

The claim for an additional 168,000 square kilometres of exclusive economic zone (EEZ), is expected to be opposed by the UK and Sri Lanka. The claim overlaps with one made by Sri Lanka, while the UK will likely want to preserve the integrity of the Britain Indian Ocean Territory.

The UK is likely to vigoroursly oppose the Maldives’ claim given its interest in the US-run Diego Garcia airbase south of the Maldives.

Following a Wikileak US diplomatic cable on the topic, the UK’s creation of the BIOT, the world’s largest marine park in the Indian Ocean was been exposed as less of an ecological project than a means to “put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago’s former residents” and retain the area for military use.

In the leaked US embassy cable, Colin Roberts, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) Director of Overseas Territories, is quoted as saying that the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) has “served its role very well”.

“Establishing a marine reserve might, indeed, as the FCO’s Roberts stated, be the most effective long-term way to prevent any of the Chagos Islands’ former inhabitants or their descendants from resettling in the BIOT,” the cable read.

“[Roberts] noted that the establishment of a marine reserve would require permitting scientists to visit BIOT, but that creating a park would help restrict access for non-scientific purposes. For example, he continued, the rules governing the park could strictly limit access to BIOT by yachts, which Roberts referred to as ‘sea gypsies’.”

National Security Advisor Ameen Faizal, Attorney General Abdulla Muizzu, Deputy Foreign Minister Haula Ahmed Didi, Brigadier General Abdulla Shamal and Major Mohamed Ibrahim from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) are part of a delegation now in New York to argue the case.