An agreement setting the maritime boundaries between the Bahamas and Cuba took effect last month, capping a multi-year negotiating process. In an email interview, Martin Pratt, director of research at the International Boundaries Research Unit at Durham University, discussed the Cuba-Bahamas boundary agreement.
WPR: What is the background of the maritime border dispute between Cuba and the Bahamas, and what impact has it had on bilateral relations?
Martin Pratt: I think the term “dispute” is probably a bit strong in this context. The Bahamas and Cuba have overlapping maritime jurisdictional entitlements, which means that it has been necessary to agree on a maritime boundary that clarifies the limits of each state's jurisdiction. Since the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides no firm rules for maritime-boundary delimitation, neighboring states often take many years to negotiate a boundary that both sides agree represents the "equitable solution" called for in UNCLOS. But that does not necessarily mean that the issue is a source of serious friction between the states. Different news reports give different figures for the duration of the negotiations between the Bahamas and Cuba, but it is clear that it took at least seven years for an agreement to be reached. This suggests that the negotiations were not entirely straightforward, but my sense is that the two governments approached the delimitation in a spirit of cooperation rather than confrontation.