the border reviewed for diplomatic peace and the economic health of the island

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By John

The lagoon of Oyster Pond Bay, in Saint-Martin, in the Caribbean, has been a dead zone with little or no activity for five years. The shops or hotels, which made the reputation of this place popular with everyone – especially tourists – and devastated during the passage of cyclone Irma in September 2017, are still in ruins, when the rest of the island has regained its dynamism. The reason ? A latent conflict of almost ten years between France and the Netherlands, which have shared the island since the signing of the Treaty of Concordia in 1648.

A “disagreement that arose when the French disputed the Dutch claim” on the water of the bay of Oyster Pond, explained in a press release, at the beginning of May, Silveria Jacobs, the Prime Minister of Sint Maarten, the Dutch part, rejoicing to see a solution to this conflict “having strained the long-standing relationship between the two governments”.

On May 26, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, is expected on the small island to sign an agreement there with the local representatives of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, relating to 348 border points. Until then, the Dutch side defended a limit that followed the coastline, when international law provided for a division of the bay. This difference in interpretation went so far as to verge on a diplomatic incident.

This was the case when, in 2016, the French authorities controlled a construction site deemed illegal and tainted with concealed work. The operation takes place on a pontoon. On the water, therefore, for the authorities of Sint Maarten who, recognizing French authority only on land, were largely offended, going so far as to boycott the ceremony of Saint-Martin’s Day, which celebrates unity from the island.

In the services of the French State which worked for the rapprochement by entering into negotiations in December 2021, we speak of a “strong political will” both parties came to finally settle the dispute. On the Sint Maarten side, it is more readily explained that France, by referring the situation to the United Nations at the end of 2017, forced the agreement for “avoid arbitration” unsuitable. “The government of Sint Maarten has adopted a compromise approach to move the discussions forward”recalled at a press conference Silveria Jacobs.

“The community is delighted with this agreement which concerns the overall route of our border with Sint Maarten, in particular the Oyster Pond sector, which will be able to open a new economic page”, soberly comments the community of Saint-Martin. Everyone is also waiting for the repercussions on the neighboring village, Quartier-d’Orléans, on the French side, known to be rather disadvantaged. “This will contribute to the opening up of the district”assures General Vincent Lamballe, commander of the gendarmerie of Guadeloupe and the Northern Islands, who sees the possibility of reinstalling a local brigade, destroyed by the cyclone in 2017.