Mar 15, 2012 at 23:13 o\clock

Bangladesh wins Myanmar battle

by: bangladesh   Keywords: Myanmar, Hamburg

BD Sea Border Dhaka/Hamburg, Mar 14 (–In a historic victory at the UN maritime tribunal, Bangladesh has won territorial and economic rights to the vast Bay of Bengal resources even beyond it bargained for.

"We've got all we wanted," an elated foreign minister told on Wednesday by phone from Hamburg, Germany, where the International Tribunal for Law of the Seas (ITLOS) is based.

Dr Dipu Moni said Bangladesh got more than it claimed in its long-running dispute with Myanmar. "Bangladesh claimed 107,000 square kilometres while it got 111,000 square kilometers area in the Bay of Bengal," she said.

"The court has given equitable solution on equidistance basis," she said, immediately after the verdict.

The President of the Tribunal, Jose Luis Jesus of Cape Verde, read the judgment in the Hamburg courtroom.

"The judgment is final and without appeal," a foreign ministry statement said. "The court also gave St Martin's a full effect," the foreign minister said.

"The full effect means Bangladesh has the territorial and economic rights surrounding the island up to 200 nautical miles toward continental shelf in an angle of 215 degrees," an official explained.

"The ITLOS ruling, by a vote of 21 to 1, brings to a conclusion the case initiated by Bangladesh against Myanmar in December 2009, to resolve a longstanding dispute with regard to the maritime boundary in the oil-and-gas rich Bay," says a statement from the foreign ministry in Dhaka.

"The court sustained Bangladesh's claims to a full 200-mile exclusive economic zone in the Bay of Bengal, and to a substantial share of the outer continental shelf beyond 200 miles.

"All of our strategic objectives have been achieved," the foreign minister said. "Bangladesh's full access to the high seas out to 200 miles and beyond is now recognised and guaranteed, as are our undisputed rights to the fish in our waters and the natural resources beneath our seabed."

The Tribunal also awarded Bangladesh a full 12-mile territorial sea around St. Martin's Island, rejecting Myanmar's argument that it should be cut in half.

A similar dispute with India is awaiting resolution at the UN court, and a verdict is due in 2014

The energy-starved Bangladesh's exploration for petroleum and natural gas in the Bay of Bengal, long delayed by conflicting boundary claims, can now proceed, Dipu Moni said.

"Today's ruling constitutes the equitable solution that Bangladesh has long desired, but was unable to obtain during 38 years of diplomatic stalemate preceding the lawsuit."

The minister also paid tribute to Myanmar. "… it is a victory for both states because it finally resolves – peacefully and according to international law.

"We salute Myanmar for its willingness to resolve this matter by legal means and for its acceptance of the tribunal's judgment.

"We are very pleased with the expertise, fairness and efficiency of ITLOS and its judges," said the foreign minister.

"The case was resolved, from beginning to end, in a little over two years. This is unprecedented for judicial efficiency in a maritime boundary case."

Myanmar had claimed that its maritime boundary with Bangladesh cut directly across the Bangladesh coastline, severely truncating Bangladesh's maritime jurisdiction to a narrow wedge of sea not extending beyond 130 miles.

Myanmar also claimed that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to award continental shelf rights beyond 200 miles from either State's coast.

The tribunal rejected both of these arguments. The International Tribunal was established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to adjudicate disputes between States concerning issues covered by the Convention, including the delimitation of maritime boundaries.

The 151-page judgment is the first by any court or tribunal to delimit the maritime area beyond 200 miles, known as the "outer continental shelf", and is certain to establish an important precedent in that regard.

As the Agent of Bangladesh in the proceedings, the foreign minister presided over a legal team, including the deputy agent, Mohammad Khurshed Alam; as well as attorneys James Crawford, Philippe Sands and Alan Boyle of the United Kingdom, Paul Reichler and Lawrence Martin of the United States; and Payam Akhavan of Canada.

Myanmar was represented by its agent, attorney general Tun Shin. Its counsel included Alain Pellet and Mathias Forteau of France, Sir Michael Wood of the United Kingdom, and Coalter Lathrop of the United States.

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