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British Indian Ocean Territory: Sovereignty

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 17th October 2019.

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Photo of Daniel Kawczynski Daniel Kawczynski Conservative, Shrewsbury and Atcham

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps the Government is taking to maintain sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State

The United Kingdom remains disappointed that Mauritius took its bilateral dispute with us over the sovereignty of BIOT (Chagos Archipelago) to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an Advisory Opinion (AO). This is an inappropriate use of the ICJ Advisory Opinion mechanism and sets a dangerous precedent for other bilateral disputes. However, an AO is not a legally binding judgment, it is advice provided to the UN General Assembly at its request. And while the British Government respects the ICJ and has considered the content of the AO carefully, it does not share the Court's approach. No international tribunal has ever found UK sovereignty to be in doubt. We stand by our long-standing commitment to cede sovereignty of the territory to Mauritius when it is no longer required for defence purposes, but strongly refute Mauritius' claim that BIOT is part of Mauritius. In the UN General Assembly we have been clear that any action that potentially compromises the current or future operations of the joint defence facility on BIOT should be of real concern to all States, given the important role it plays in regional and global peace and security.

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