Current Issues of the Law of the Sea and Their Relevance to Cyprus
Let me start by saying that I am very pleased to be speaking to a knowledgeable and concerned audience on a topic with which I have been dealing, in different capacities, for some four decades and which is currently of considerable significance in it many facets.
Time does not allow to go into the historical development of the rules of the Law of the Sea, going back to Hugo Grotius and his De Mare Liberum (1648), or, earlier still, the Rhodian Code of the 3rd century B.C. Nor is it possible to deal with the earlier attempts at codification by the United Nations, which were superseded by the much more ambitious undertaking of the Third United Nations Conference of the Law of the Sea (1973-1982). The resulting Convention, this veritable Constitution of the Oceans consisting of 320 Articles and nine Annexes, was signed in Montego Bay, Jamaica on 10 December 1982 and regulated a multitude of issues. Having been ratified by some 160 states (including the EU), its provisions are considered to have become part of customary international law.
These included old traditional concepts, such as the territorial sea and freedom of navigation and new concepts, such as the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the regime of the deep seabed and archipelagic waters. Small delegations (such as ours) while not totally neglecting issues marginal to the country’s interest, such as environmental protection and scientific research (indeed, I had to pay some attention to these as Vice Chairman of the Third Committee and member of the General Committee), archipelagic waters, passage through straits, etc, they of necessity had to concentrate on the issues which were if direct significance to them.
In the case of Cyprus, in addition to strongly supporting the adoption of a 12 mile territorial sea (Art. 3 of the Convention – Cyprus had already in 1964 proclaimed a 12 mile territorial sea zone) and that enclosed and semi enclosed seas, such as the Mediterranean, are regulated by the same basic rules as those applicable to open seas and oceans (e.g. the Pacific or the Atlantic) subject to the acceptable anodyne duty to cooperate with the riparian states (Articles 122 and 123) and for the protection of archaeological objects found in the seabed (Articles 149 and 303), we concentrated on certain key issues of primary importance to Cyprus.