Thursday, July 12, 2018

Kyiv Must Denounce 2003 Accord with Moscow on Sea of Azov and Rely on 1982 Law of the Sea, Meshcheryak Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 11 – Many are urging Kyiv to turn to international arbitration courts to force Russia to live up to the terms of the November 2003 accord with Moscow on use of the Sea of Azov, Sergey Meshcheryak says; but they are wrong because that agreement is so poorly drawn that Moscow can and will exploit its ambiguities to avoid living up to its responsibilities.

Instead, the senior Ukrainian diplomat who has specialized in international agreements argues, Kyiv must denounce the 2003 accord and rely instead on the provisions of the 1982 Law of the Sea treaty which both Kyiv and Moscow have ratified and which offer Ukraine real advantages (

The 2003 agreement, Meshcheryak argues, is “distinguished by legal indefiniteness in the regulation of the regime of water space and the continental shelf and correspondingly with a lack of clear legal norms which would allow holding the Russian Federation to account for its illegal actions” on the sea.

Consequently, he says, “the legal path for the resolution of the situation consists in the denunciation of this 2003 treaty and the application of the terms of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea to the Sea of Azov.”   That measure is precisely drawn, recognized by Russia, Ukraine and most countries around the world – the US is an exception – and benefits Ukraine.

Those opposed to such a step argue that denouncing the Azov convention would have a direct and negative impact on the January 2003 accord between Ukraine and Russia on their state borders; but that is not the case as a close reading of Article 5 of that accord shows, Meshcheryak says.

And therefore, he says, Kyiv has little choice but to denounce the Azov agreement and invoke the Law of the Sea provisions if it is to have a firm legal basis internationally for mobilizing international support against Russia’s actions in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Straits, actions that clearly violate the Law of the Sea.

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