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General News of Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Source: B&FT

Cote D’Ivoire set to begin oral argument tomorrow in boundary dispute

Cote D’Ivoire is set to tomorrow Thursday February 9, 2017, begin its first –round of oral argument in the maritime dispute between it and Ghana at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany.

On February 27, 2015, Côte d’Ivoire submitted a request for the prescription of provisional measures under Article 290, Paragraph 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), requesting the chamber to order that Ghana shall, inter alia, “take all steps to suspend all oil exploration and exploitation operations underway in the disputed area”.

According to the Ivoirians Ghana was using the development of its oil industry to annexe the territory which does not belong to it.

In view of that, they will be praying the Special Chamber of the ITLOS to halt Ghana’s operations in the disputed area and handover it over to them as they believe that, Ghana is mining oil within their area.

But, Ghana in ending their first-round oral argument in the maritime dispute at the ITLOS in Hamburg, Germany, argues that it only developed its oil industry based on a recognised pre-existing maritime boundary by the two countries.

Ghana’s new Attorney General, Gloria Akuffo, who is also the leader of the country’s legal team said the claims made by Cote D’Ivoire was baseless since there had been a long-standing agreement on their maritime boundary under their domestic laws.

Based on this, she prayed the Chamber “to affirm the customary equidistance boundary” as the maritime boundary for the two countries.

Ghana at the hearing, presented maps and charts which set out the boundary of the two countries to the Tribunal, and called on it “to declare the existence of a boundary which the Parties have themselves long agreed and delimited in practice and in consequence”.

Three of Ghana’s lawyers — Professor Philippe Sands of Matrix Chambers, London; Mr Paul S, Reichler of Foley Hoag Chambers, Washington, DC, and Mr Fui S. Tsikata of Reindorf Chambers, Accra — also advanced legal arguments on Ghana’s behalf.

The case is currently being heard by five-member panel of Judges duly constituted by the President of the Special Chamber, with Judge Boualem Bouguetaia, is presiding over the hearing.

The other members of the panel are judges Rüdiger Wolfrum, Germany, and Jin-Hyun Paik, the Republic of Korea with the other two ad hoc judges being Thomas Mensah, Ghana, and Ronny Abraham, France, selected by Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, respectively, per the rules of the ITLOS.

This comes after 10 failed negotiation attempts with Cote d’Ivoire over its maritime boundary, in view of that Ghana, in September 2014, announced that it had instituted arbitration proceedings at the ITLOS to ensure a resolution of its maritime boundary dispute with Cote d’Ivoire.

The Special Chamber, on April 25, 2015, directed Ghana to take all the necessary steps to ensure that no new drilling took place in disputed areas under its control but allowed the country in an initial ruling to continue with the development of some ten wells which had been drilled.

The tribunal’s final decision according to its timetable is expected to be delivered before the end of 2017.