U.N. deals diplomatic blow to Britain and U.S. over Indian Ocean islands

U.N. deals diplomatic blow to Britain and U.S. over Indian Ocean islands
  • Clock-gray 22:28
  • calendar-gray 22 May 2019

The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly demanded on Wednesday that Britain give up control over the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean within six months, dealing a diplomatic blow to Britain and the United States, ONAreports quoting Reuters.

Britain, which has overseen the region since 1814, detached the Chagos islands in 1965 from Mauritius - a colony that gained independence three years later - to create the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). It is home to a joint British and U.S. airbase.

The U.N. resolution adopted on Wednesday backs a non-binding advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in February, which found Britain had acted unlawfully in the decolonization process and should relinquish control.

The resolution won the support of 116 countries, while 56 abstained and only Australia, Hungary, Israel and the Maldives joined Britain and the United States in voting against it. Fifteen countries did not vote.

The U.N. General Assembly had requested the court’s opinion in a resolution adopted in June 2017 with 94 votes in favor, 15 against and 65 abstentions. The Hague-based institution is the top United Nations court for inter-state disputes.

U.N. General Assembly resolutions are non-binding but can carry political weight. Britain and the United States had written to all U.N. members to ask them to vote against the resolution.

Britain leased the Chagos archipelago’s biggest island, Diego Garcia, to the United States in 1966, paving the way for construction of an airbase that required the forced removal of some 2,000 people.

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