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Sudan seeks to take Egypt to “binding arbitration” over Halayeb: expert

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Halayeb Triangle (Sudan-Egypt) Borders, on 22 October 2012 (NASA-Google)
May 5, 2017 (KHARTOUM) - An international maritime border arbitrator has revealed that Sudan is planning to take Egypt to a binding arbitration before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) over the disputed Halayeb area pointing to Khartoum’s recently lodged objection with the United Nations against Cairo’s annexation of the region to its maritime border.

The Halayeb triangle, which is a 20,580 km area on the Red Sea, has been a contentious issue between Egypt and Sudan since 1958, shortly after Sudan gained its independence from the British-Egyptian rule in January 1956.

The area has been under Cairo’s full military control since the mid-1990’s following a Sudanese-backed attempt to kill the former Egyptian President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt has used to reject Sudan’s repeated calls for referring the dispute to international arbitration. The international law provides that the agreement of the two parties is needed to arbitrate a dispute by the tribunal.

According to the international arbitrator Osman Mohamed al-Sharif, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea signed by Sudan and Egypt oblige the two countries to appear before the ITLOS.

Al-Sharif told Sudan Tribune that the declaration lodged by Sudan’s foreign ministry at the UN last March according to a presidential decree aimed to take a third path after Cario refused the direct negotiations and the international arbitration.

He pointed that Khartoum’s move to deposit with the UN coordinates of the baselines from which its maritime areas are measured after 27 years since former President Hosni Mubarak lodged the maritime borders of Egypt doesn’t strip Sudan of its sovereignty over Halayeb and the equivalent Red Sea waters.

By virtue of its membership in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Sudan is required to notify the UN Secretary-General of any development affecting the geography of its maritime boundary.

On 2 March, President Omer al-Bashir issued a decree including the baselines from which the maritime areas of the Republic of Sudan are measured. Last month, Sudan deposited with the UN its maritime borders.

Accordingly, Al-Sharif pointed that the UN Secretary-General will now notify Egypt that “its 1990 declaration of maritime border is being objected [by Sudan]” and will wait for Cairo’s response before the two sides could go to court.

“Sudan and Egypt are obliged to go to arbitration before the ITLOS according to UN Convention on the Law of the Sea … the UN Security General might refer the dispute to arbitration and if Egypt refuses, he will intervene to force it to submit,” he said.

“If we deal with the issue as a maritime dispute, we will find away to a binding arbitration, however, there is no binding arbitration in the international law,” he added.

Al-Sharif underscored that the UN Secretary General as guarantor to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea can end the fait accompli which was established by Egypt in Halayeb in 1995, saying the maritime borders of the Sudan in Halayeb are fixed and complementary to the land border.

It is noteworthy that Cairo in April 2016 refused a demand by the Sudanese government to hold direct talks on Halayeb and Shalateen or to accept the referral of the dispute to the International Court of Arbitration.

(ST)

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