Territory disputes have been around since humans first learned to draw a line in the sand to separate sides. No matter how much we either try (or don’t), not everybody can always end up happy. While some disputes are more serious than others (with the threat of war, for example), others can just be childish and greedy. Whether these fights are centered on resources or religion or something else entirely, here are the most unusual and most serious territory disputes happening around the globe right now.
We’ll learn what makes a small rock in the Atlantic Ocean so important.
Guantanamo Bay Is A Massive Controversy
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With the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898, the United States was left in control over Cuba and a few of its surrounding areas. In 1902, the new Cuban constitution gave the US rights to build a naval station on its soil. The United States began leasing the base and by 1934 was charging $ $3,386.25 a year.
However, in 1960, Fidel Castro had ordered a removal of the United States from the base since he considered the occupation to be against Cuba’s will and therefore illegal. Only one of the United State’s rent checks was cashed after the Cuban Revolution and has since refused to cash any of the other checks in protest of what they see as an illegal occupation.
Japan And Russia Want The Kuril Islands
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The Kuril Islands are positioned from the north of Japan up to the southern end of the Kamchatka Penninsula in Russia. Before World War II, Japan was in control of the islands closest to Japan, and Russia owned the rest. However, during the war, the Soviet Union invaded the other islands and took control of them.
Then, in 1951, Japan signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty which gave up their claim to the Kuril Islands and gave Russia full control. But the Soviet Union never ended up signing the peace treaty, therefore giving up claim to the islands. Since the treaty was never signed by both parties the islands are still under dispute and technically, Japan and Russia are still at war.
Rockall Island Is Apparently Very Valuable
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By looks alone, Rockall Island is nothing more than an uninhabitable rock in the middle of the Northern Atlantic. Not only is it uninhabitable, but it is also extremely far from the nearest human settlement. It is around 8,000 square feet — a nice pit stop for traveling birds –and has also been fought over by Britain, Iceland, and Denmark for hundreds of years.
The reason that the three countries have such an interest in the island is not for territorial purposes, but for resources. According to the United Nations Law of Sea, whoever has claimed to the “island” also has rights to the resources in the surrounding area such as fish, oil, navigation, and more.
If you thought that was bad, these next two countries have fought three wars over one small territory.
The Kashmir Conflict
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Since the 1940s, Pakistan and India have had a bloody conflict over the territory of Kashmir. They have been a part of three wars and countless skirmished in-between over this one territory. India claims that the entirety of the region was once a princely state, and currently hold 43% of the territory with places such as Jammu, the Kashmir Valley, and other cities.
Pakistan, on the other hand, controls 37% of the territory and areas such as Azad Kashmir, Gilgit, and Baltistan. However, Pakistan also believes a way to end the violence would be to hold a referendum to see if the people living in Kashmir would rather join India, Pakistan, or become independent. However, it seems like no answer would make both sides happy.
Arunachal Pradesh’s Borders Are Curious
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Technically, Arunachal Pradesh has been a state of India since the 1914 Simla Accord. Even though China was one of the countries in attendance, they refused to acknowledge the Accord and consider Arunachal Pradesh to be South Tibet, and therefore part of their own territory.
As acknowledged by Metrocosm, not only do the Chinese consider the region to be theirs, but they even have altered Google Maps in order to appear as though it truly is. As it turns out, this isn’t the only region where the maps have been tampered with. Some geographic features have even disappeared completely within China’s own GCJ-02 coordinate system.
The Senkaku Islands Have Led To Violence
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Currently, there is a major territorial dispute between China and Japan involving eight small uninhabited islands located in the East China Sea. As it turns out, it isn’t necessarily the lands that either country wants as it’s beneath the water. There is a rich pocket of oil and natural gas under the water and potentially in the surrounding areas that have pitted the two countries against each other.
This isn’t just a minor issue, either. There have been anti-Japanese protests in cities across China and even an attempt to take over Tokyo’s embassy in the Capital. Problems are likely to escalate if the issue isn’t resolved soon.
Belize Is Stuck Between A Rock And Hard Place
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Since 1940, Guatemala has essentially claimed ownership of Belize. However, this dispute over Belize is nothing new. It dates back to 1812 after Guatemala claimed its independence from Spain. During that time, Spain and Guatemala both thought that Belize was a part of Guatemala. However, the region was actually under control by British settlers which confused everyone.
The UK was convinced it had rights to Belize because Guatemala signed a treaty with them in 1859 to recognize Belize as a sovereign state, in a trade for economic assistance. Yet Guatemala claimed that the UK never acted in accordance with the treaty, and Belize says the treaty doesn’t matter. Belize itself never signed an agreement and won’t give up its own land because two other groups signed an agreement that involved their country without them.
Even though Belize’s situation is a little complicated, this next territory isn’t controlled by anyone.
Bir Tawil Is Claimed By Nobody
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In 1899, Egypt and Sudan joined the British Empire where they established a horizontal border in order to separate the two countries. Then, in 1902, a group of Britains managed to create a new administrative border to create a better representation of the land used by the local tribes.
The new borders ended up creating two new regions: the larger Hala’ib Triangle, to the east, and the smaller Bir Tawil to the west. Now, there has been an ongoing dispute between Egypt and Sudan over who controls Hala’bib Triangle. Both claim that they control the Hala’ib Triangle and that the other controls the Bir Tawil. Currently, neither country accepts that they are in control of Bir Tawil and the region remains claimed by nobody.
The Strait Of Gibraltar Is A Mess
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To begin, the Strait of Gibraltaraltor is already messed up considering that Ceuta is a Spanish city located in Morrocco, and Gibraltar is a Morrocan city located in Spain. Now, the Strait of Gibralter is the in the middle of a massive tug-of-war between numerous Morrocco, the U.K., and Spain.
The U.K claims Gibraltar after Spain gave it to the U.K. in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht. On the other hand, Spain believes they have claim over Gibraltar because U.K. sovereignty over Gibraltar is a violation of Spanish territorial integrity. Spain also claims the city of Ceuta in the region after Portugal ceded it to Spain under the Treaty of Lisbon in 1668. Finally, Morrocco believes they have claim to Ceuta because it’s in a Morrocan territory, and Morrocco is also looking to maintain its territorial integrity.
Poor Jerusalem can never get a break.
The Endless War For Jerusalem
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It’s no secret that the city of Jerusalem is one of the most fought-over territories in history. There have been very few truly peaceful times when it comes to Jerusalem in the past hundreds of years. Now, the main dispute surrounding the city is between the Israelis and Palestinians. Both countries consider the city to be their political capital as well as the center of their respective faiths.
It has been a heated and bloody political conflict that almost seems to have no end. Although currently, Israel controls the entire city. That doesn’t sit well with Palestine. What most people are hoping for is a peaceful resolution with western Jerusalem given for Israel and an eastern Jerusalem for Palestine. But such a peaceful resolution doesn’t seem likely.
The Caspian Sea
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The Caspian sea is surrounded by the five countries of Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran. However, as we’ve seen before, sharing a body of water with anyone — let alone five countries — is bound to lead to some trouble. The issue with the Caspian Sea is that it has access to mineral resources as well as oil and natural gas, which all of the surrounding countries desperately want.
On top of that, it also has access to an abundance of fish, and even access to international waters. So clearly, the Caspian Sea is no ordinary body of water. However, clear negotiations have still yet to be met and the outcome is a mystery.
Next, learn how Putin managed to secretly absorb Crimea.
The Plot To Take Crimea
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After the 2014 Ukranian revolution, Crimea was added into the Russian Federation. However, sovereignty over the area is currently being argued between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. After the former President of Ukraine left Russia on February 21, 2014, the Russians began to plan their takeover of Crimea.
It didn’t take long until they had taken the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and it also looked like there were a large number of Crimeans who desired to become a part of Russia. So, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a treaty of accession and the Republic of Crimea was absorbed into the Russian Federation. However, this action did not sit well with Ukraine — or the rest of the world, for that matter.
Abu Musa Island Is A Strategic Island
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Located in the eastern part of the Persian Gulf lies Abus Musa Island. It is a 4.9 square foot Iranian island that can be found near the Strait of Hormuz. Where the island is located is special, because the waters are very deep, so oil tankers and large ships must pass it in order to squeeze by.
This makes the island worth a lot to many people for a variety of strategic purposes. However, although the island is controlled by Iran, it has also been claimed by the United Arab Emirates as a territory of Sharjah, creating territorial tension between the two.
Problems on the Carribean Sea
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The Bajo Nuevo Bank, or Petrel Islands, is a reef in the western Caribbean Sea. Although it may sound like an uneventful location, it is the source of a controversial territory battle. Colombia currently has claim over the area as part of the San Andrés and Providencia, with Jamaica also having some ownership after making certain agreements with Colombia.
Nicaragua also claims that they have title to the islands on its continental shelf which covers a vast amount of space. Finally, the United States has also made claims dating back to the 1800s, and even considers it an “unorganized, unincorporated, United States Territory”.
Beaufort Sea Wedge: A Battle For Resources
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The Beaufort Sea is a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean that is near the Yukon, Alaska, and Canada’s Arctic Islands. While the sea and its climate are very harsh, a discovery was made between the 1950s and 1980s that there was a large resource of natural gas underneath the ice and water.
This brought about a border dispute between Canada and Alaska over a wedge in the International Boundary of the Beaufort Sea, which lies between the Canadian territory of Yukon and the United State’s Alaska. What makes this spot so important to both countries is that according to Canada’s Natural Energy Board, the seabed contains enough natural gas to power Canada’s national consumption for 20 years.
Check out Japan’s sneaky strategy to claim more maritime territory!
The Issue With The Okino Torishima
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Japan is in the middle of a territory dispute not with another country, but with the United Nations Law of the Sea. Okino Torishima is an uninhabited chain of three man-made islands located slightly south of Japan. They each measure to be around 600 square feet and a relatively alone by themselves in that region of the forest.
Yet, it isn’t their control over the islands that are in question, it’s whether the United Nations Law of the Sea will allow the atoll to be considered as islands, giving Japan control of the waters around them. It’s a rather sneaky way of inching into the maritime territory that would otherwise be China’s that is still up for dispute.
if you thought that was sneaky wait until you see what China is doing to a Philippines territory.
The Aegean Sea
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The Aegean Sea is located between the two mainlands of Greece and Turkey. It’s also connected to other bodies of water such as the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea. However, although beautiful, there have been major political and territorial disputes over the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey.
Since the 1970s, disagreements regarding the air and maritime territorial boundaries of the Aegean have turned the two countries into enemies and on multiple occasions almost initiated military conflicts. Most recently, in 1996, violence almost broke out between the countries and although years have passed, tensions are still high.
Danger In Badme
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In 2000, the countries Eritrea and Ethiopia signed what was called the Algiers Agreement regarding their countries boundaries. By signing this agreement, the two countries agreed to comply without disagreement, barring any particular rulings that the Border Commission may make.
Then, in 2002, the commission made a decision on where the boundaries were and placed Badme (a town in dispute) inside of Eritrean territory. Although the Algier Agreement worked at first, Ethiopia eventually refused to withdraw from the new border and rejected their ruling. Since then, thousands of people in the middle have become refugees for fear of another war beginning between the two sides.
Fishing In The Scarborough Shoal
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The Scarborough Shoal is a Philippines-administered island located in the South China Sea. However, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China Taiwan have been claiming control over the island, saying that the Chinese discovered the shoal centuries ago and that they have a long history of fishing in the area.
Not only are the Chinese disregarding the Philippines ownership, they’ve also been caught taking coral and fishing endangered marine life. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with the Filipinos at all since they have administration over the Shoal. China’s refusal to leave the Shoal alone has sparked anger among the Filipinos who want the Chinese to leave their territory alone.
The Kosovo Question
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Kosovo is caught in the middle of a territorial conflict between the Serbian and the Albanian leadership in the Assembly of Kosovo, which used to be the Yugoslav government. The dispute began after the dissolution of Yugoslavia at the end of 20th century and the beginning of the Kosovo War.
In 1999, the Providence was given to the United Nations to care for. This helped to end the Kosovo War of that year as well. Serbia was then given sovereignty over Kosovo, but Kosovo was making pushes towards its own independence which eventually established the Republic of Kosovo. This didn’t make Serbia very happy and the political climate in the area is still shaky today in regards to Kosovo.