Territorial dispute

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A territorial dispute is a disagreement over the possession/control of land between two or more states, or over the possession/control of land by one state after it has conquered it from a former state no longer currently recognized by the occupying power.


Context and definitions

These 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. In many cases territorial disputes result 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 real, or imagined, 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 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."

In some cases such as the Aksai Chin, the Taiwan straits, and Kashmir, both sides will define a line of control that serves as a de-facto international border. Although these lines are often clearly demarcated, they do not have the legitimacy of an agreed international boundary.

  • The term border dispute applies only to the many cases where a limit territory bordering more then one state (including an enclave in one state, e.g. Nagorno Karabach) is claimed by two or more, not the very existence of a whole state challenged (e.g. Taiwan claimed by PR China to be a mere renegade province on the island of Formosa, and formally vice versa).
  • The term occupied territories (see that article) in general refers to regions distinct from the recognized territory of a sovereign state but which it controls, especially with military forces. Even though a lon,g term occupation is general maintained as a means to at upon a territorial claim, this is not a prerequisite, as occupation may be rather strategic (such as creating a buffer zone or a preventive move to prevent a rival power obtaining control) or a means of coercion (as a punishment, to impose some internal measures or for use as a bargaining chip)
    • Since the latter part of the 20th century, the unqualified term "occupied territories" has come to refer specifically to the West Bank and Gaza strip, whose status is hotly disputed (see Palestinian territories).
  • The term Irredentism (see that article) applies to those border- and other territorial claims that are justified by former possession (the word means a move to make return) and/or at least formerly) belonging to a same ethno-cultural entity

Current territorial disputes

It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with List of disputed or occupied territories. (Discuss)

Full control indicated in bold, partial control indicated in italics.

Disputes involving states that recognize each other

Disputes between a state and its subnational entities, or between subnational entities

Disputes involving parties that each have some territory under control but do not recognize each other

Disputes between a state and a secessionist group with no territorial control

See also


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