Negotiations on Oyster Pond border to commence late 2019

THE HAGUE--The actual negotiations regarding the St. Maarten/St. Martin border, including the Oyster Pond area, are expected to start at the end of 2019, confirmed Dutch Kingdom Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok on Thursday.
The confirmation was made in response to written questions submitted by Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, Ronald van Raak of the Socialist party (SP). Van Raak sought clarity two weeks ago on the border conflict between the French Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Oyster pond.
In particular, the Member of Parliament (MP) asked about the catch-22 situation of Captain Oliver’s yacht club and restaurant and its owner Maggi Shurtleff, who has been unable to repair and/or sell the property due to the border conflict. Van Raak urged the Dutch government to solve the issue as soon as possible.
Minister Blok explained that after the signing in April 2016 of the maritime border treaty between the Dutch Kingdom and the French Republic, preparations for negotiation on the land border between Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin had started.
“Oyster Pond is part of these land border negotiations. In the meantime, preparations for the negotiations are well-advanced. It is expected that the land border negotiations will start at the end of this year,” Blok stated.
The minister confirmed that indeed there is a “difference of opinion” on the demarcation of a part of the land border between St. Maarten and St. Martin, in particular the Oyster Pond area. “The border is not specifically demarcated in the 1648 Treaty of Concordia, which divides the island into French and Dutch parts.”
According to Blok, the eastern side of the island, which includes Oyster Pond, was uninhabited at the time of the Treaty of Concordia and the treaty doesn’t give clarity on the border of this area. “The formal status of Oyster Pond only became relevant when the area was developed.”
Since 1983, a restaurant and marina were established at the jetty on the north side of Oyster Pond which, since their opening, have been paying taxes in Dutch St. Maarten and also operating under permits issued by the Dutch side, Blok stated.
The minister responded in the affirmative Van Raak’s question about the status quo agreed on in 2014, between the two countries. “To prevent incidents, the Dutch Kingdom, the French Republic, [Dutch – Ed.] St. Maarten and [French] St. Martin agreed in 2014 to maintain a status quo as long as the border had not been delineated.”
French authorities carried out an inspection at the construction works on the jetty at Captain Oliver’s in 2016. “Several persons were taken for questioning by the French gendarmerie. The French action, in the opinion of the Kingdom, went against the agreement to maintain a status quo,” stated Blok, who added that the Dutch government had no notion of the French authorities’ motives in doing so.
Asked by Van Raak whether a perspective buyer of the restaurant and marina ran the risk of facing new inspections and blockades by the French, the minister replied that inspections by French St. Martin authorities could not be ruled out as long as there was no agreement on the land border between the French and Dutch sides.
Regarding the current situation that Captain Oliver’s and its owner Shurtleff face, Blok said the difference of opinion on the border only affected the options to rebuild one restaurant and marina. He said there was no disparity on the status of other companies in the Oyster Pond area.
As for the reconstruction of the property in question, the minister explained that St. Maarten as an autonomous country within the Kingdom was responsible for the reconstruction of the island after the September 2017 Hurricane Irma.
“St. Maarten is investigating possibilities to give the owner of the specific restaurant/marina sufficient comfort to start reconstruction. This can only take place with the cooperation of France,” Blok ended in his letter to the Second Chamber.
The Daily Herald

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