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Statement by Ambassador Günter Sautter at the UNGA debate on Oceans and the law of the sea, 7 December

08.12.2021 - Speech

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Mr. President, distinguished delegates,

Let me first join other delegations in thanking the coordinators of the informal consultations on both resolutions, Ms Natalie Morris Sharma of Singapore and Mr Andreas Kravik of Norway, for their outstanding coordination despite the challenging conditions this year. We also thank the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, for its expertise, hard work and constant support to delegations throughout the consultations.

Germany fully aligns herself with the statement presented on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

Germany welcomes that this year’s Omnibus Resolution on “Oceans and the Law of the Sea” reaffirms the universal and unified character of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as THE legal framework, within which ALL activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out, and underscores the need to maintain the integrity of the Convention.

Given the universality and comprehensiveness of the UNCLOS, it is important to reiterate that ALL maritime claims in the world’s oceans and seas must be based on the relevant provisions of UNCLOS.  There is no legal basis to make legal assertions as if there was a parallel body of international law to override matters comprehensively covered by UNCLOS.

While our concern is global, we are particularly concerned by the assertion of unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea, as well as ongoing intimidation and coercion against the lawful rights of other States in the region to access their natural resources in their Exclusive Economic Zones.

We call on all States to make their maritime claims and conduct their maritime activities in accordance with the relevant provisions of UNCLOS and to resolve their maritime disputes peacefully, and free from coercion, in accordance with the relevant principles and rules of the Convention and its dispute settlement mechanisms, including those entailing binding decisions by international courts and tribunals, which must be respected.

We also call on all States to respect the freedoms of navigation and overflight in the High Seas and the Exclusive Economic Zone and all other lawful uses of the oceans and seas, including the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea.

These rights and freedoms are paramount for international trade and transport links, as well as for marine scientific research, naval missions and economic prosperity.

We are concerned by recent attempts to restrict the lawful exercise of these rights and freedoms in the South China Sea, the Black Sea and elsewhere, including by blurring the clear distinctions made in UNCLOS between the various maritime zones, e.g. through the use of unclear legal terminology in domestic legislation regarding the geographical scope of coastguard competences or maritime traffic security laws.

We reaffirm our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters, including those around Crimea.

It remains our longstanding position that the right of innocent passage in the territorial sea pertains to all categories of ships, including warships and government ships, regardless of their cargo, and that “none of the provisions of the Convention, which in so far reflects (pre-) existing international law, can be regarded as entitling coastal States to make the innocent passage of any specific category of foreign ships dependent on prior consent or notification.”

Unilaterally established ship reporting requirements on vessels excercising their right of innocent passage, and which do not enter or depart a port or internal waters of the coastal State, are inconsistent with international law as reflected in UNCLOS.

Germany has consistently defended the delicate balance struck by UNCLOS between the legitimate coastal States’ interests and the freedoms and rights enjoyed by all other States, including landlocked states, in the various maritime zones, including in our declaration on accession, and we will continue to do so.

Let me conclude by reaffirming our continued commitment to the obligations contained in UNCLOS on bilateral, regional and international co-operation, including for the conservation and management of marine living resources and for the protection and preservation of the marine environment.

Together with our partners in the European Union, we look forward to the resumption of the intergovernmental negotiations on a legally binding international agreement under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). We are fully committed to concluding an ambitious BBNJ implementing agreement as soon as possible, ideally already next year.

Mr. President, thank you very much!

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