Republic of Somaliland protests moves by Somalia to encroach on maritime boundaries

Somaliland-mapHargeisa (SLpost)- The Republic of Somaliland has lodged a formal protest with the UN Secretary-General against Somalia’s recent declaration of an Exclusive Economic Zone, which it sees as a violation of its sovereignty.

An Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is a sea zone prescribed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production. It stretches from an agreed baseline out to 200 nautical miles from a state’s coast. Somalia issued a proclamation of itsEEZand a list of co-ordinates of the outer limit of the zone and deposited these with the office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 30 June.

In a statement of formal protest lodged with the United Nationson 23 July,the Republic of Somaliland declared that it “emphatically rejects, opposes and will not recognisethese declarations by the Republic of Somalia to the extent that they purport to include or affect the waters, continental shelf and other maritime entitlements of the Republic of Somaliland.”

Copies of the statement were also sent to Somaliland’s regional neighbours and other interested governmentsincluding the United States, the United Kingdom, and Turkey.

The statement, issued by Somaliland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs added: “The Republic of Somaliland remains supportive of all efforts to improve regional coordination and promote economic development in the Horn of Africa. However, Somaliland’s cooperation and contributions to such efforts have always been on the understanding that Somaliland will continue to exercise sovereignty and sovereign rights with respect to the waters and continental shelf adjacent to the Republic of Somaliland’s territory in accordance with international law.

Somalia cannot and does not exercise jurisdiction or physical control over the waters and continental shelf off the coast of Somaliland.”

Commenting on the move, Somaliland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Behi Yonis, said: “The unilateral declaration by Somalia of its maritime boundaries not only contravenesprevious commitments Mogadishu hasmade, but ignoresthe principles of international law. We call on Somalia to do what we all agreed and return to the negotiating table through the Somalia-Somaliland Dialogue.”

The Republic of Somaliland regards itself as the successor state to the British Somaliland protectorate, which became independent from Britainon 26 June 1960. The Republic of Somaliland re-established its independence in 1991 following the collapse of the Somali Republic, and has existed and functioned as an independent state since then. A referendum conducted in Somaliland on 31 May 2001 overwhelmingly endorsed a new constitution and provided a clear statement of the people’s aspiration to maintain Somaliland’s independence.

Since then, Somaliland has held successful and peaceful multi-party elections at the municipal level in 2002 and the parliamentary level in 2005, while also holding two presidential elections in 2003 and 2010. International monitors have witnessed all Somaliland’s elections since 2003 and pronounced them free and fair.