Government briefs Maldives Police Service on Chagos issue

Chagos Archipelago, an atoll in the Indian Ocean located 310 miles off the coast of Addu City. (File Photo)

The government conducted an information session for Maldives Police Service on the Chagos Islands issue.

Police said that the information held at Iskandar Building on Tuesday was led by Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid and Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath.

They detailed that the session was conducted in line with National Security Council’s decision to brief Maldives Police Service regarding the ongoing territorial dispute between Maldives and Mauritius over Chagos Islands.

Officers of higher rank that Superintendents of Police were briefed during the information session which also saw the attendance of Home Minister Imran Abdulla, Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed and senior officials from Foreign Ministry and Attorney General’s Office (AGO).

The territorial dispute is over an area between the Maldives and Chagos Islands - a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 islands in the Indian Ocean about 500 kilometers south of the Maldives archipelago.

For decades, Mauritius and the United Kingdom have been in a dispute over ownership of the Chagos, after Mauritius claimed the Chagos archipelago as Mauritian territory when Mauritius gained independence from the UK in 1968. Maldives became involved in the dispute as the country's exclusive economic zone overlaps with that of Chagos.

Mauritius lodged the case with the ITLOS under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on August 23, 2019.

Maldives had voted against a 2019 resolution in the UN General Assembly calling for the UK to relinquish claim over Chagos and hand the islands over to Mauritius within six months, citing a formal protest filed by Mauritius protesting against a case lodged by Maldives with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) in 2010, asking for Maldives’ continental shelf to be extended beyond 200 nautical miles.

During verbal proceedings in the case last week, Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath said Maldives had decided to vote in favor of the Chagos decolonization resolution in the UN General Assembly this year, and that the Maldivian president had informed his decision in a letter to the Mauritius prime minister.

The AGO said that decisions regarding votes in the UN General Assembly are linked to Maldives’ foreign policy – and that such decisions lie in the purview of the president.

AGO also insists that the decision by Maldives to vote in favor of the Chagos decolonization resolution in the UN General Assembly and the ongoing dispute at the ITLOS are two separate issues and that the vote will have no effect on the dispute.

They also stressed that Maldives’ interests were properly defended in accordance with international conventions and legal principles and decisions before the ITLOS.

In a statement in November – UK’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly expressed their intention to negotiate with Mauritius regarding handover of the disputed territory of Chagos Islands, with an aim to reach a settlement early next year.