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Sri Lanka and Maldives Cooperate to Expand Exclusive Economic Zones

Sri Lanka is successfully lobbying to increase the size of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in cooperation with the Maldives, avoiding any conflict over overlapping claims, the Daily Mirror reports.

The EEZ is a maritime area extending up to 200 nautical miles (230 miles) beyond a nation’s territorial sea, where a coastal nation has jurisdiction over both living and nonliving resources.

In May 2009, Sri Lanka submitted technical and scientific data to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to establish the outer limits of its continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical miles EEZ under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In 2016, the Commission formed a sub-commission to engage with Sri Lanka. Since then, the Sri Lankan delegation has held 11 rounds of talks. An informed source revealed that Sri Lanka has successfully established the outer edge of its continental shelf to the sub-commission’s satisfaction, though it still awaits approval by the UN Commission.

Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Sabry secured Cabinet approval last year to establish the National Ocean Affairs Committee under the Ministry to collaborate with the sub-commission.

The continental shelf, a maritime zone rich in mineral deposits, oil, gas, and fisheries, holds significant commercial value. Consequently, nations aim to extend their continental margins to maximize resource exploitation.

According to UN laws, a country can have continental shelf rights up to 350 nautical miles or 100 nautical miles from the 2,500-meter depth contour.

The Daily Mirror also reports that there are overlapping claims in the extension of the continental shelf with the Maldives. During bilateral talks with Maldivian Foreign Affairs Minister Moosa Zameer, the Sri Lankan delegation discussed the matter. The two sides agreed to collaborate to avoid any conflict over the overlapping areas.

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