The UK and Mauritiushave started discussions on the sovereignty of the disputed Chagos archipelago, the Prime Minister of Mauritius announced on Sunday. The archipelago is at the heart of a dispute that dates back more than five decades. Since 1965, it has been administered by London, which has decided to set up a joint military base there with the United States, on the main island of Diego Garcia.
Mauritius gained its independence in 1968 but the Chagos, located in the northeast of Mauritius, remained under British administration. “The latest developments on the Chagos case are very encouraging. Negotiations between Mauritius and Great Britain have started», announced Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth during a New Year’s address.
2000 inhabitants evicted
Mauritius claims the Chagos territory and has multiplied legal proceedings since 1975 in order to obtain the return of the archipelago to its fold.
A resolution of the United Nations General Assembly in May 2019 calls in particular “the United Nations and all its specialized agencies to recognize that the Chagos Archipelago is an integral part of Mauritian territory, to support the decolonization of Mauritius as soon as possible and to refrain from obstructing this process by recognizing or giving effect to any action taken by or on behalf of the British Indian Ocean Territory“.
This resolution followed a similar decision by the International Court of Justice issued a few months earlier.
The UK has deported around 2,000 Chagos residents to Mauritius and the Seychelles to make way for the US military base. Mauritians from Chagos accuse the United Kingdom of “illegal occupancy“.
In 2016, the United Kingdom extended until 2036 a contract on the use of the military base with the United States, which notably played a strategic role during the Cold War and then in the 2000s during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.