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Sep 24, 2014

Ghana confident of winning maritime boundary arbitration

Mrs. Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, Minister of Justice and Attorney General on Tuesday assured Ghanaians of a favourable outcome of the maritime boundary arbitration between Ghana and the Cote d’Ivoire.

She said Ghana has initiated arbitration proceedings under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to establish its maritime boundary with Cote d’Ivoire in a manner that is equitable to both States, and final and binding upon them in accordance with international law.

Mrs Appiah-Oppong, who gave the assurance at a news conference in Accra, said Ghana regards the arbitration as a peaceful and friendly means of bringing to a final resolution a longstanding and costly dispute between two neighbouring States that maintains and would continue to maintain excellent relation and strong bonds of friendship.

She said despite several years of good faith negotiations, including at least 10 rounds of bilateral meetings, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire have been unable to agree upon the location of their maritime boundary.

Mrs Appiah-Oppong said consistent with the Law of the Sea Convention and international case law, including numerous decisions of International Court of Justice and arbitration tribunals, Ghana maintains that the boundary is to be defined by an equidistance line.

She noted that Cote d’Ivoire chose to adopt a different approach, declaring: “At stake is a large area of sea and seabed, including the natural resources they contain, vital for the economic development and well-being of both countries and its people.”

“The two states’ overlapping claims generate uncertainty about the location of the maritime boundary, and the uncertainty on the part of our domestic and foreign partners regarding their rights and responsibilities.”

Mrs Appiah-Oppong said this is especially so in relation to oil and gas exploration and production, with all the consequences that implies for future economic development.

“Ghana has commenced the arbitration proceeding with a desire to strengthen the relationship between the two countries by firmly and finally establishing the maritime boundary.

“In this way, a situation of certainty will be enhanced, offering further reassurance to Ghana’s international partners in the petroleum industry that the boundary is where Ghana says it is,” she stated.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General said the arbitration would proceed under Part XV and Annex VII of the Law of the Sea Convention.

She explained that it would take place before a tribunal of five arbitrators, consisting of one appointed by each party and three by the mutual agreement and failing such agreement, the three arbitrators would be appointed by the President of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, Germany.

Mrs Appiah-Oppong pointed out that in accordance with Article 3(a) of Annex VII, Ghana has appointed Judge Thomas Mensah, former President of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea, as a member of the Tribunal.

She pointed out that the arbitrators would decide the case by a majority vote, and their decision is final and binding on the parties.

She said Ghana estimates that the proceedings might last approximately three years from beginning to end.

Mrs Appiah-Oppong said Ghana’s decision to pursue arbitration in regard to its maritime boundary with Cote d’Ivoire is part of a national policy of achieving the final settlement of all of its maritime boundaries.

“Pursuant to this policy, Ghana hopes to engage with its neighbouring states in the east with the aim of fixing the boundary in that area by mutual agreement,” she said.

Ghana’s legal term would be led by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, as an Agent for Ghana, in collaboration with all relevant departments of government, to be supported by a team of distinguished and highly experienced international counsel and technical consultants. – GNA