The United Kingdom and Mauritius have entered into 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 goes back more than five decades. Since 1965 it has been administered by London, which has decided to establish 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 northeastern part of Mauritius, remained under British administration. “The latest developments in the Chagos case are very encouraging. Negotiations between Mauritius and Great Britain have started», Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth announced during a New Year’s address.
2000 inhabitants thrown out
Mauritius claims the Chagos territory and has multiplied lawsuits since 1975 to get the archipelago back into its fold.
A resolution from the UN 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 the territory of Mauritius, 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 ruling by the International Court of Justice issued a few months earlier.
Britain has deported around 2,000 Chagos residents to Mauritius and the Seychelles to make way for the US military base. Mauritians from the Chagos accuse the United Kingdom of “illegal residence“.
In 2016, Britain extended until 2036 a contract on the use of the military base with the United States, which played a strategic role in particular during the Cold War and then in the 2000s during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.