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Sri Lanka’s ongoing engagement with the UN UNCLCS and the International Seabed Authority

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The attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been drawn to several media reports relating to Sri Lanka’s continental shelf submission to the UNCLCS in New York as well as to matters related to the ISBA in Jamaica on exploration of the cobalt-rich crust in the “Afanasy Nikitin Seamount”.

In this regard the Ministry wishes to recall that in terms of Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) all coastal States are entitled to claim an extended continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Sri Lanka as a coastal State and following careful study and expert opinion presented its technical and scientific data and other material to the UNCLCS to establish the outer limits of the continental shelf on 8th May 2009.  Sri Lanka presented its submission under the special method contained in the Statement of Understanding (SoU), in respect of States in the Southern part of the Bay of Bengal.

The UNCLCS appointed a Subcommission to consider Sri Lanka’s submission in October 2016 and several rounds of discussions between the Subcommission and the Sri Lanka delegation have taken place.

The UNCLCS is yet to make recommendations with regard to Sri Lanka’s submission and at present consideration of Sri Lanka’s submission by the UNCLCS is on hold due to a request made by India to the UNCLCS regarding the area claimed by Sri Lanka. The way forward in this regard is being pursued through diplomatic channels.

In a separate development, India has submitted an application to the ISBA situated in Kingston, Jamaica for approval of a plan of work for exploration of cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts located at the Afanasy Nikitin seamount.

The ISBA is the authority established to consider and approve such applications by States, pursuant to Part XI Section 4 of the UNCLOS.

As the area of application for exploration of cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts lies entirely within an area claimed by Sri Lanka under its continental shelf submission, Sri Lanka has brought these considerations to the attention of the ISBA and requested to withhold this matter, until final recommendations are made on Sri Lanka’s submission through the UNCLCS process. The ISBA is following applicable procedures in this regard and the matter is ongoing.

At present, both matters are under process before the UNCLCS and the ISBA, which are two separate UN entities established to implement respective provisions of the UNCLOS.

Recent speculations in the public domain relating to ceding of Sri Lanka’s sovereign rights related to these matters is not based on the factual situation in this regard.

Sources: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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