Delimitation Practice in the Eastern Mediterranean
Andreas Jacovides Ambassador (a.h.)
I noticed that, early next week, you will be treated to a more comprehensive presentation of the topic of delimitation generally and so you can consider this a kind of warming up in the context of a specific situation. I believe – and hope you can agree with me – that the three EEZ delimitation agreements of Cyprus with Egypt (2003), with Lebanon (2007) and with Israel (2010) are model agreements and deserve to be emulated based, as they are, on the application of the median line and with a third party dispute settlement, between an island state and three of its continental neighbours.
Questions of delimitation of the maritime zones (territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf) between states the coasts of which are opposite or adjacent to each other have been a major issue of the law of the sea over the years.
There are currently many situations in the world where such questions give rise to disputes which are potentially dangerous for international peace and security since they involve matters of national sovereignty and major economic interests. South China Sea is one prime example. Other such situations are in the Arctic Ocean, the Bay of Bengal, Falklands/Malvinas, but also Greece/ Turkey in the Aegean, Japan/China, Japan/Korea in the Pacific and indeed the Eastern Mediterranean, which is the focus of our attention today.
The massive six-volume work “Maritime Delimitations” provides the evidence of the many such situations in the practice of states. The fact is that in recent years much of the legal work before the International Court of Justice, before international arbitral tribunals and, most recently, before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea has been primarily concerned with issues of maritime delimitation. Part of the explanation is the economic significance of the resources involved as well as sensitive issues of national sovereignty. The other part of the explanation for this volume of litigation and third party adjudication is the vagueness of the relevant rules in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, particularly Articles 74 (EEZ) and 83 (Continental Shelf). On the positive side, the result of virtually all of the recent cases (before the ICJ, arbitral tribunals and ITLOS) has been to clarify, through judicial practice, these articles on the basis of the application of the median/equidistance line as the starting point of the given delimitation situation, subject to variation where special circumstances so warrant so as to achieve an equitable solution.