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Bahamas, US Discuss Maritime Boundaries

by MIke Godfrey,, Washington

01 May 2012

The Bahamas government has commenced negotiations with the United States as part of a larger program to reach a legally-binding, international understanding on what constitutes the maritime territory of the Bahamas.

Discussions commenced on April 26, 2012, between Bahamas Foreign Minister Brent Symonette and John Dinkleman, Charge d'Affaires of the US Embassy in Nassau. The nations aim to formalize the legal framework regarding the Bahamas' territorial entitlement, and set rules on maritime access, resource utilization, and cooperation in the area of maritime security.

The Bahamas has progressed its agenda to formalize its maritime area in recent years, including by signing an agreement with Cuba in October 2011. Talks with the United Kingdom on the maritime border between the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas have been temporary shelved but are to be resumed when pressing domestic issues in the Turks and Caicos Islands are resolved.

Symonette said the talks are key to "peace, security and economic advancement" between the nations. Currently, maritime policy between the countries is legislated for in the Comprehensive Maritime Agreement of 2001, which in particular facilitates cooperation on tackling narcotics smuggling by sea, by providing rules for maritime access for law enforcement among other things. Symonette identified that an updated framework would improve the efficiency of bilateral cooperation, and enable the Bahamas to better take advantage of the natural resources that lie in the sea around the islands as well as provide legal certainty.

At the meeting, Symonette encouraged the United States to sign up to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which aims to define governments' roles in managing maritime natural resources, and recognize archipelagic states' right to maritime territory. The Bahamas has enacted legislation pertaining to its archipelagic status, but negotiation on entitlement must be held with other nations to establish official boundaries.

TAGS: marine

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