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CLARA MOSCHINI

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Chagos Islands: the strategic USAF airport in danger?

In the coming weeks the International Court will be pronounced

In the next weeks the International Court of Justice in The Hague will rule on a case that has been going on since 1966, the year in which the United Kingdom ceded the island Diego Garcia -from the Chagos archipelago- to the United States to allow it to build a strategic military base in full Indian Ocean. The accusation was brought to court by the Republic of Mauritius that does not recognize the acquisition of the atolls made by London in 1965, considering the islands as an integral part of its territory.

Until 2036 the largest island of the Chagos -which have a total area of 63.17 km2- will be used by the United States for the B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit aircraft bombers, as well as the B-52 and the F-22s if necessary. However, the strategic importance of the atolls increased at the end of the Cold War, because the USAF started using the base to take off the airplanes in the raids against Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, the base is used -in the eventuality- as a point of support for the airplanes of the US Navy and for the docking of submarines.

The problem, however, is that to allow the construction of the air base, the United Kingdom deported 2000 natives in the Seychelles in order to make the atolls totally uninhabited. This and the non-recognition of the purchase made pushed the Government of Mauritius to undertake a long legal battle on which the International Court of Justice will express itself, which could put at risk the permanence of the US military airport on the major island.

M/A - 1214002

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