Regime of Islands
Andreas Jacovides Ambassador (a.h.)
Once again, I am very pleased to have the occasion of addressing you, this time on the Regime of Islands. Even though it occupies only one of the 320 Articles of UNCLOS III, Article 121, the topic of islands is an important issue of the law of the sea, as evidenced by the extensive discussions in the early stages of the UN Conference (1973-82) and in the preparatory stage preceding it (1970-73) in the Seabed Committee, as outlined in the DOALOS publication “Regime of Islands–Legislative History”. It is very much a live issue today, especially in the Pacific Ocean, but also in several other parts of the world.
What I propose to do during the limited time available this morning, is to outline the historical introduction to the regime of islands; trace its evolution during the Conference itself following the earlier discussions in the Subcommittee II of the Seabed Committee; indicate the distinction between islands and rocks; briefly review how Article 121 was applied by international courts and tribunals; touch on, but not go into detail, the current international disputes involving islands and as applied in practice; and provide conclusions as to how such disputes, and those which no doubt will arise in future, should be solved peacefully, as required by the UN Charter on the basis of the applicable rules of the Law of the Sea.
In doing so I shall rely on my experience of the past four decades as the representative of my country, Cyprus, in the Seabed Committee, the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea and as an academic writer in various forums and publications in more recent years (most recently, in a chapter of a volume under preparation in honour of Satya Nandan). I was also honoured to speak on behalf of Cyprus at the UN General Assembly on 10 December last year on the occasion of the Thirtieth Anniversary of UNCLOS III which I had signed in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in 1982.