Ghana has initiated arbitration proceedings under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), seeking a declaration that it has not encroached on Cote d’Ivoire’s territorial waters in the exploration of oil.
The decision follows failed negotiations between the two countries in the past few years, as well as continued receipt of threatening letters from Cote d’Ivoire by oil companies operating in the disputed area.
In order to avoid a diplomatic spat, Ghana has since served Cote d’Ivoire with a notification of arbitration, in accordance with the provisions of UNCLOS.
Ghana filed its suit based on Article 287 Annex VII of the 1982 UNCLOS.
A highly placed source close to the case told the Daily Graphic that a statement of claim accompanying the notification had also been served on Cote d’Ivoire.
The statement of claim avers, among other things, that pursuant to articles 286 and 287 of the 1982 UNCLOS, and in accordance with Article 1 Annex 1, the Republic of Ghana had served notice to the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire to the effect that “having failed to reach a settlement after successive negotiations and exchange of views over an extended period of time, Ghana has elected to submit the dispute concerning the determination of each maritime boundary with Cote d’Ivoire to the arbitral procedure provided for under Annex VII of UNCLOS”.
The source said the issue bordered on Ghana’s commercial interest and those of the companies operating on the oil block.
“These are companies with shares on the stock exchange and it is important the country’s interest and theirs are protected,” it added.
According to the source, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong, would lead Ghana’s legal delegation to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) after the necessary legal documents had been filed and served on parties in the dispute.
She will be backed by her attorneys and an arbitrator with vast experience in international maritime issues.
Under the rules of the ITLOS, Cote d’Ivoire is also expected to appoint an arbitrator, while both countries are expected to jointly choose the three remaining arbitrators.
“All we are doing is to protect our oil companies who have given contracts and to protect the interest of Ghana. This is not a fight between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire and must not be seen as such,” the source added.
Ghana discovered oil in commercial quantities offshore the Western Region in June 2007, but the Ivorian authorities have been laying claim to the discovery.
The dispute received wide media attention in the past, resulting in leaders from both countries engaging in talks to resolve their differences.
And to compound the issue, oil companies operating in the oilfields have been receiving threatening letters from Cote d’Ivoire asking them to leave site.
When contacted, the Minister of Communications, Dr Edward Omane-Boamah, disclosed that the Attorney-General would hold a press conference on the issue today, September 23, 2014, but declined to comment further.