The UN General Assembly has demanded that the United Kingdom withdraw within six months from the Chagos archipelago, located in the Indian Ocean and home to a major military base rented by London to the United States. The decision, non-binding, was approved with 116 votes in favor, six against and 56 abstentions, a clear defeat for the British and American governments, which had campaigned against the text.
The resolution of the General Assembly supports an opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which last February determined that Chagos' decolonization process was not completed according to international law and that, therefore, the archipelago is an integral part from Mauritius.
The Indian nation, which became independent from the United Kingdom in 1968, claims these islands, considering that London separated them from their territory illegally three years before independence. The Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, recalled on Wednesday before the General Assembly that the agreement by which his country supposedly yielded that territory was signed by individuals who did not really represent the population and who were under British control.
For her part, the British ambassador to the UN, Karen Pierce, made it clear that her country will continue in the area and reiterated its traditional position, which indicates that Chagos has been under British sovereignty since 1814 and was never part of Mauritius. In the 1965 agreement, London undertook to "cede" the archipelago to Mauritius when it was not necessary for "defense purposes".
According to Pierce, that situation has not occurred because the joint base that the United Kingdom and the United States. They maintain in Diego Garcia, the main island of Chagos, is «vital to fight conflicts, terrorism, drugs, crime and piracy». Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Mauritius stressed that his country is willing to reach an agreement to maintain the operational base in the long term.
The military installation is one of the main US installations. in the Indian Ocean and has capacity for ships, submarines and bombers, which were used both in the invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001, and in that of Iraq in 2003, to launch air attacks.
A precedent for Gibraltar
Asked about the possible implications of this decision for Gibraltar and the Malvinas, Pierce said he did not expect any change of position on the part of Spain and Argentina, two countries with which, he recalled, London maintains good relations. Both the Spanish and Argentine delegations voted on Wednesday in favor of demanding London's withdrawal from Chagos.
The precedent of Chagos will raise the pressure for the UN to be equally strong with the British colony of Gibraltar. As finally resolved in the General Assembly, the issue of Chagos was not interpreted as a bilateral problem – which only affects the negotiation between the United Kingdom and Mauritius – but as a contentious issue that is part of the decolonization process. (tagsToTranslate) chaos (t) kingdom (t) united