May 23, 2024

Statement by Amb. Hadjichrysanthou on the 40th anniversary of UNCLOS

amb-unclosPlenary meeting of the General Assembly in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

New York, 8 December 2022

Mr. Chairman,

Cyprus associates itself with the statement made earlier on behalf of the European Union and its Member States, as well as with the statement of the Group of Friends of UNCLOS.

The marking of the 40th anniversary of the adoption of UNCLOS is an occasion for celebration, as well as an opportunity to reflect on the Convention’s achievements and successful contribution to the promotion of the peaceful uses and the freedom of the seas; the exploitation of their natural resources, including the sustainable utilization and conservation of their living resources; and the study, protection and preservation of the marine environment.

The Convention was rightly once described by the UN Secretary-General as ‘one of the most significant and visionary multilateral instruments of the twentieth century’. The negotiations that led to the adoption of the Convention in 1982 were exemplary from the point of view of multilateral diplomacy, and UNCLOS III was the first major international conference that decided to rely on consensus as a rule of decision-making. Since the day it opened for signature -10 December 1982 – the Convention has achieved nearly universal acceptance.

As the Constitution of the Oceans, UNCLOS represents a carefully crafted balance among the rights and interests of all States irrespective of their specific characteristics. Its provisions reflect customary international law and constitute clear rules concerning the sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction of States at sea, as well as regarding the determination of maritime boundaries. These rules are enforceable by and against all States, including States which are not parties to the Convention. This entails, inter alia, the responsibility on the part of all States to ensure that all interstate arrangements they enter into – including international agreements on maritime delimitations or other matters related to the seas – are in line with international law as reflected in UNCLOS.

As an island-state and a maritime nation, Cyprus is strongly committed to upholding the provisions of the UNCLOS and actively supports its objectives and its institutions. Cyprus recognizes the longstanding contribution of the Convention to international peace and security, and underscores its central importance as the fundamental pillar for ocean governance.

Cyprus has adopted its national maritime legislation in conformity with the provisions of UNCLOS, and has delimited its maritime zones on the basis of the median line with a number of its neighboring states, in accordance with international law. My delegation cannot overstate the importance of respecting the sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the maritime zones of all coastal States, as well as the principle of good neighborly relations, along with the primacy of the peaceful settlement of disputes in international relations. No State should demand exceptional treatment, or encroach on the rights of other States, or engage in practices that aim to deconstruct the clear legal regime established by the Convention, including in respect of island States and States comprising islands.

I take this opportunity to underline that my country has on several occasions expressed its readiness to engage in negotiations with any relevant country, with a view to reaching a peaceful settlement in good faith of any maritime dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean, in full respect of international law, including the settling of any such dispute before the International Court of Justice.

My delegation is confident that the importance of the Convention will only increase in the decades to come. UNCLOS has sufficient flexibility and scope to address emerging challenges relating to the ocean, such as sea level rise; this phenomenon is one of the urgent climate change induced consequences, that particularly affects island states. As we have stressed on many occasions, we are strongly of the view that any law of the sea questions related to sea-level rise should be resolved within the framework of the Convention.

The commemoration of the 40th anniversary of UNCLOS is an occasion marking our renewed collective commitment to the Convention as an instrument for international peace and security. We urge all UN Member States who have yet to become party to the Convention to do so as soon as possible.

I thank you.