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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Nov. 6) – A dispute between Fiji and Tonga over ownership of a reef where two islands have formed will be decided by the international authority on the sea.

The Minerva Reef, which is south of both Fiji and Tonga, has been claimed by both countries to be in their Exclusive Economic Zones.

The people of Ono-i-Lau in Fiji’s Lau Group claim it is their ‘qoliqoli’ (traditional fishing ground) and have given it a Fijian name.

The Tongans have denounced Fiji’s claim as baseless saying the reef was proclaimed as Tonga’s by its king in 1972 and have given it a Tongan name.

However, Fiji’s Foreign Minister Kaliopate Tavola is adamant Fiji has a strong claim.

"We claim that it is in our Exclusive Economic Zone and we can prove that," said Tavola. "The exercise we currently doing is to determine the coordinates from our survey data to determine our maritime zone. The matter will ultimately be resolved through the International Law of the Sea and Seabed Authority."

Tavola admits there can be overlapping of maritime boundaries of the two close neighbours as the EEZ is 200 nautical miles from the coastal area.

The elders of Ono-i-Lau raised the matter of ownership of Minerva Reef in the recent Lau Provincial meeting and have asked the government to secure it for them.

November 7, 2005


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