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France, Madagascar target sovereignty accord over Scattered islands

2001 NASA image of Glorioso islets (part of Iles Eparses), in the Indian Ocean, north and west of Madagascar. . The islands were protected by the French government in 1975 because of their importance for turtles and seabird nesting.
2001 NASA image of Glorioso islets (part of Iles Eparses), in the Indian Ocean, north and west of Madagascar. . The islands were protected by the French government in 1975 because of their importance for turtles and seabird nesting. (NASA)

France and Madagascar have agreed on a mixed commission to determine the sovereignty of the Scattered islands in the Indian Ocean.

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The five islets have been a source of dispute between the two states since the 1970s. On Monday, a French and a Malagasy delegation met in the capital Antananarivo to discuss a way forward on this long-running dispute.

Early in May, the presidents of France and Madagascar announced in Paris that they had decided to open discussions and cooperate on the issue of the Scattered islands, an uninhabited archipelago.

But in October during an Indian Ocean visit, President Emmanuel Macron travelled to Glorioso islands (part of the Scattered islands) and declared before cameras and media, “This is France!” – a declaration which sent a shock waves through Madagascar.

At the end of discussions on Monday, the head of the French delegation, Marcel Escure, said that both parties managed to discuss “common solutions for the present and the future.”

But Escure avoided a question over the 1979 United Nations resolution which requested France to hand the Scattered islands back to Madagascar.

Escure’s response was that “we ought to look towards the future”.

A communique from the Malagasy presidency stated that the restitution of the Scattered islands is a fundamental issue in the negotiations.

It added that the dispute hinges on an incomplete decolonisation process, in accordance with international law.

Former negotiations between Madagascar and France on the matter, in 1990 and 2016, failed to reach a decision.

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