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A territorial dispute is a disagreement over the possession/control of land between two or more territorial entities or over the possession or control of land, usually between a new state and the occupying power.
Territorial disputes are often related to the possession of natural resources such as rivers, fertile farmland, mineral or oil resources although the disputes can also be driven by culture, religion and ethnic nationalism. Territorial disputes result often from vague and unclear language in a treaty that set up the original boundary.
Territorial disputes are a major cause of wars and terrorism as states often try to assert their sovereignty over a territory through invasion, and non-state entities try to influence the actions of politicians through terrorism. International law does not support the use of force by one state to annex the territory of another state. The UN Charter says: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations."
- The term border dispute (or border conflict) applies only to cases where a limited territory bordering more than one state (including an enclave in one state such as Nagorno Karabakh) is claimed by two or more states; the very existence of a whole state is not being challenged (such as the relationship between the Republic of China and People's Republic of China, or the relationship between South Korea and North Korea).
- Occupied territories in general are regions distinct from the recognized territory of a sovereign state but which it controls, especially with military forces. Even though a long-term occupation is generally maintained as a means to act upon a territorial claim, this is not a prerequisite as occupation may also be strategic (such as creating a buffer zone or a preventive move to prevent a rival power obtaining control) or a means of coercion (such as a punishment, to impose some internal measures or for use as a bargaining chip).
- The term irredentism applies to those border disputes and other territorial claims that one party justifies on the basis of former cultural or ethnic attachment.
Territorial disputes have significant meaning in the international society, both because it is related to the fundamental right of states, sovereignty, and also because it is important for international peace. International law has significant relations with territorial disputes because territorial disputes tackles the basis of international law; the state territory. International law is based on the 'persons' of international law, which requires a 'defined territory' as mentioned in the Montevideo convention of 1933.
Article 1 of Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duty of States "a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with other States" 1
Also, as mentioned in B.T.Sumner's article, "In international law and relations, ownership of territory is significant because sovereignty over land defines what constitutes a state." 2
Therefore, the breach of a country's borders or territorial disputes pose a threat to a state's very sovereignty and the right as a person of international law. In addition, territorial disputes are sometimes brought upon the International Court of Justice, as was the case in Costa Rica and Nicaragua (2005).3 Territorial disputes cannot be separated from international law, because its basis is on the law of state borders, and because its potential settlement also relies on the international law and court.
- List of territorial disputes
- Fait accompli
- Frozen conflict
- Status quo ante bellum
- Territorial disputes in the South China Sea
- Territorial disputes in the Persian Gulf
- Territorial disputes of Nicaragua
- Lectures by Malcolm Shaw entitled The International Legal Principles Relating to Territorial Disputes: The Acquisition of Title to Territory and Settling Territorial Disputes in the Lecture Series of the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law
- WorldStatesman – click on any state for the listing (after the chronological lists of statesmen) of Territorial Disputes it is party to
- Territorial disputes in CIA World Factbook
- USState Department/ FloridaStateUniversity International Border Studies
- List of top 10 Territorial disputes