A List Of Disputed Territories In The World

Below is a list of the World’s countries and territories which have serious disputes, with other states, over large parts of their claimed land, or over their territory in full. Disputes relating to overseas territories which are claimed by more than one state, are also included.

This list includes recognised, partially-recognised and non-recognised states, along with exiled governments, independence-seeking nations, states with major border disagreements and small island disputes.

Whilst disputes over inland areas generally involve minority ethnic groups wanting to be fully independent from a larger power, differences of opinion over small uninhabited islands, or isolated mounds of sand in the sea, or even just a lone rock in the middle of the ocean, often have a completely different set of motives. If a country claims an island, under the Law Of The Sea, an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is granted for 200 nautical miles from it’s coast. Only the nation which controls the island, can explore for oil, gas and other natural resources in that geographic area, or can exploit any fish stock which may be present in those particular waters.

List Of Disputed Territories In The World
(Republic of Abkhazia)
Claims independence, but Georgia also claims sovereignty of Abkhazia as an autonomous region. When Georgia was seeking independence from the Soviet Union in the late 1980’s, ethnic tension began to build, as the Abkhaz’s wished to remain part of the USSR. The 1992-3 War In Abkhaziaresulted in a defeat for Georgia, by the Russian-backed Abkhaz’s, and the ethnic cleansing of Georgians from Abkhazia. A ceasefire was agreed in 1994, but it has since been broken many times, most recently in 2008 while the South Ossetia Warwas ongoing. After that battle, UN and CIS peacekeeping forces were pulled out, and with Russia formally recognising Abkhazia’s independence, it became a de facto state. Abkhazia is recognised by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, South Ossetia, Transnistria and Nauru.
related dispute> South Ossetia
Aksai Chin
(Aksayqin, Akesaiqin
or Akesai Qin)
China administers this region as part of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, but India claims it as part of it’s Jammu and Kashmir state.
related disputes> Arunachal Pradesh /
Kashmir (Jammu & Kashmir)
+ nearby Antarctican islands (Bouvet Island, Heard Island & McDonald Islands)
Many nations claim sovereignty over large parts of the Antarctican continent, including Australia (Australian Antarctic Territory), New Zealand (Ross Dependency), France (Adélie Land), the United Kingdom (British Antarctic Territory), Argentina (Argentine Antarctica), Norway (Peter I Island, Queen Maud Land) and Chile (Antártica). While many of these claims overlap, particularly those claimed by the UK, Chile and Argentina, various claimants do not recognise many others’ territorial claims. Australia and New Zealand’s claimed lands were part of the original British claim, until those countries gained independence. Brazil, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Spain and the United States have all signed the Antarctic Treaty, and are all interested in grabbing their own slice of the coldest continent, but have yet to officially stake their claims, in accordance with the Treaty. Nearby Antarctic islands are also claimed by various nations, including Australia (Heard Island & McDonald Islands) and Norway (Bouvet Island).
NOTE* The French Southern & Antarctic Landsoverseas territory, includes both land and islands, in Antarctica, Africa, Asia and Oceania.
Arunachal Pradesh Asia
Eastern Indian state, controlled in full by India, but China disputes a portion of it, saying it is part of it’s Tibet Autonomous Region.
related disputes> Aksai Chin /
Kashmir (Jammu & Kashmir)
Bajo Nuevo Bank
(Petrel Islands) &
Serranilla Bank
North America
The United States, Colombia, Jamaica, Nicaragua and the Honduras have all claimed sovereignty over these two small isolated, and uninhabited, groups of reefs, islands and islets. The US administers them as unincorporated United States territories, and Colombia administers them as part of their department of San Andrés and Providencia, and has a lighthouse on Serranilla. Nicaragua continues to passionately fight the sovereignty issue in the International Court of Justice, with some 21st century cases taken against Colombia, Honduras has since dropped their claims, and Jamaica has not pushed the issue seriously in the past few decades, due to a joint deal with Colombia which allows them to exploit the resources in the area. Most of the sovereignty claims arise from nations wishing to exploit the Law Of The Sea, which grants Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) for 200 nautical miles from it’s coast.
Bassas da India, Europa Island & Juan de Nova Island (part of the French overseas territory of theFrench Southern and Antarctic Lands) Africa
France claims sovereignty over these various uninhabited islands, but this is disputed by Madagascar. Variously, they serve as nature reserves and meteorological stations, with minimal staff manning the stations. All three are protected by French troops which are based on the nearby island of Réunion.
(Republic of Cabinda)
When this part of Africa was decolonised in the 1960’s, Cabinda was assimilated into greater Angola, even though it had been governed as a separate state up until then. Cabinda claims independence, but Angola also claims sovereignty, and currently controls it. Cabinda is not recognised by any other states, but many of it’s independence-seeking groups continue fighting against Angola, with thousands of Cabinda citizens currently in Congolese refugee camps due to the fighting.
Chagos Archipelago
(formerly the Oil Islands, now governed as the British Indian Ocean Territory)

In 1965, Britain isolated the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius, and the islands of Aldabra, Farquhar and Desroches from the Seychelles, and this entire group of Pacific islands became the British Indian Ocean Territory, an overseas territory which the UK had planned to use for joint UK-US military bases and activities. All private property was purchased on the Chagos islands during 1966, and the entire population (known as the Chagossians, or Ilois) of Diego Garcia – the largest and most habitable island in the Chagos group – were forcefully relocated to Mauritius. The Seychelles’ islands were then returned in 1976, and since then, the British Indian Ocean Territoryhas comprised only of the Chagos Archipelago. Deigo Garcia is now the home to a huge US military base, which they secured a lease for, from the British, for agreeing to sell them Polaris nuclear weapons at a discounted price. The former Deigo Garcia islanders, who now live in Mauritius and the Seychelles, continue to fight to get their homeland back, and have won some landmark cases in the UK’s High Court, with UK£14.5million received in post-2000 payouts, but the Chagossians continue to be excluded from their islands through a British government ‘royal prerogative’, and constant law challenges from the government to keep it in place. The UK has said that it will cede the island group to Mauritius when it ceases to be used for military purposes, but this looks unlikely in the near future, with the US having a long-term lease in place. Mauritius claims the islands were taken illegally from them in 1965, and they claim full sovereignty over them, and the Seychelles claims sovereignty over some of the islands.

East Turkestan /
Uyghurstan /

Xinjiang is an autonomous region of China, but there have been several movements by the Turkic locals (mostly Uyghurs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Kazakhs and persophone Tadjiks), over the past century, to gain independence. Calls for the independence of East Turkestan from Chinese control have grown louder since independence was gained for the republics in West Turkestan (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

Falklands Islands
(a British Overseas Territory)
South America
The United Kingdom currently controls and claims this group of islands as a self-governing British Overseas Territory. Argentina’s claim of sovereignty over these islands contributed to the breakout of the 1982 Falklands War.
related dispute> 
South Georgia & The South Sandwich Islands
Faroe Islands Europe
The North Atlantic island group, the Faroe Islands, has been an autonomous province of Denmark since 1948. A local Faroese government currently controls most aspects of their own lives, except security and foreign affairs. The local population is split over independence, and islanders are not considered citizens of the European Union, even if they hold Danish passports.
(a British Overseas Territory)

Gibraltar is a small island off the coast of North Africa, just below Iberia, which was historically part of Spain, but was ceded to the British in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. It is currently a self-governing British Overseas Territory, and the majority of it’s 30,000 residents apparently wish to remain this way, but Spain continues to aggressively seek full sovereignty, or even shared sovereignty. Britain has said that it is committed to making sure it remains British.

Glorioso / Glorieuses Islands
(Archipel des Glorieuses)
This archipelago operates as a nature reserve, which is manned by the French Foreign Legion, due to France holding overall control over the islands. The Glorioso Islands are also claimed by Madagascar, the Seychelles and Comoros. Madagascar is a close neighbour, and they are geographically part of both the Comoros Archipelago, and the Seychelles Archipelago.
Golan Heights
(Syrian Heights)

Israel claims sovereignty over about two-thirds of the Golan Heights, which it annexed from Syria in 1967, and which it reasserted it’s sovereignty over within the 1981 Golan Heights Law. This was condemned by the United Nations, which continues to see this part of Israel as being occupied, and actually belonging to Syria. Syria continues to assert it’s sovereignty over the entire Golan region, but only currently administers about one-third of it. The Syrian-administered area has a population of about 80,000, and about 40,000 live in the Israeli-controlled area, many of whom are in illegal settlements. Along with the UN, the EU, US, UK, Red Cross, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Arab League all consider Israel to be an illegal occupying force in the region.
related disputes> Israel / Palestine

(Hatay Province / Alexandretta)

Hatay is a Turkish province, in the far south of the country, bordering Syria. It is claimed and controlled by Turkey, but Syria also claims full sovereignty, as it was historically a part of that country. It was mainly the Syrian province of Alexandretta, within the Ottoman Empire, and was then subsequently controlled by the French after the First World War ended, but declared it’s independence in 1938 from French-run Syria. At this time it changed it’s name from Alexandretta, to the Republic of Hatay, and through a public referendum, voted to become part of the Republic of Turkey. Nowadays Syria still claims sovereignty, but the issue has been left in the background recently, due to the growing political and economic ties between the two countries.

(the State of Israel)

Israel claims sovereignty over all of the land which is now known as Israel, along with some of the neighbouring Palestinian lands, which it currently occupies with internationally illegal settlements – East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and parts of the West Bank are not recognised as Israeli by most states. Many Palestinian groups claim sovereignty over Israel as part of Palestine, along with the regions which are currently controlled by Palestinian authorities (the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank), and 20 states currently do not recognise Israel. The land which the current state of Israel occupies, used to be part of the larger historical nation called Palestine, which existed until 1948, when Israel declared independence over the entire Palestine. There have been many bloody battles between the Israeli military and various Arab armies, most notably from 1947 to 1949, when the state was being set up.
related disputes> Golan Heights / Palestine

(often referred to as Jammu & Kashmir by local and international organisations, including the United Nations)

Jammu & Kashmir was a former princely state in the British Empire in India, from 1846 until 1947, after which India then gained independence, and was partitioned into the Dominion of Pakistan (mostly Muslim), and the Union of India (mostly Hindu). Each Indian state was given a choice to join either India or Pakistan, and when the ruler of Kashmir & Jammu decided to remain independent, a war broke out between India and Pakistan, dividing the population of Jammu & Kashmir between the two sides. The Indian government then said it had made a formal agreement with Hari Singh, the Maharajah of Jammu & Kashmir, called The Instrument of Accession, which handed over the entire lands of Jammu & Kashmir to Indian control. Pakistan disputed this, due to the population being mostly Muslim, and to this day, Pakistan denies such a document exists. After some horrendous wars in the area, Jammu & Kashmir is now split into Indian territory (the northern state of Jammu & Kashmir, which is actually just a large slice of Kashmir), Pakistani territory (the Northern Areas) and Chinese territory (Aksai Chin). India claims sovereignty over all of these areas, as does Pakistan, whilst China only holds claim over Aksai Chin, albeit with a small slice of current Indian land which it claims is part of it’s Tibet Autonomous Region.
related disputes> Aksai Chin / Arunachal Pradesh

(Republic of Kosovo)
Claims independence, but Serbia also claims sovereignty. The Republic of Kosovo also claims sovereignty over the United Nations administered region of Kosovo – some small enclaves with a majority of Serbian inhabitants – which UN peacekeepers currently control. 65 nations currently recognise Kosovo, including all of it’s neighbours apart from Serbia (Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia). In 2008, Serbia requested a United Nations resolution declaring Kosovo’s independence, and the UN General Assembly subsequently adopted a resolution asking the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on the matter. More developments are expected.
(Greater Kurdistan)

The Kurds are historically an ancient ethnic Persian (Iranian) group of tribes who are currently geographically split mostly between modern-day Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. Prior to the first World War, most of the vast Kurdish population lived in the province of Kurdistan in the Ottoman Empire, with some also living in Persia, but after the defeat of the Ottomans, the Allies decided to split up their empire, and created several countries within it’s boundaries. Kurdistan was to be one of those individual countries, but the Allies backtracked after Kemal Atatürk – the only undefeated Ottoman commander during WWI – led the Turkish National Movement to victory in a local uprising. His forces retook much of the region in the Turkish War of Independence, and the Allies eventually agreed to the modern-day Turkish borders. A large slice of Kurdistan was within those borders, and the Allies then split the rest of Kurdistan between the new British-backed state of Iraq, and the new French-backed state of Syria, with the remainder staying in their Iranian provinces. This left the Kurds with no independent lands, and all living as minority’s in their respective countries. There are some calls for an independent Greater Kurdistan, most notably from the PKK in the past, but the various groups of Kurds which are situated in various modern-day countries, mainly prefer to concentrate their efforts on gaining independence as separate Kurdish states.

The Current Kurdish Population: There are an estimated 25-35 million Kurds in the World, many of whom live in historical Kurdistan, which is spread across modern-day Turkey (12-17 million), Iraq (4-7 million), Iran (5-7 million) and Syria (2-4 million), but there are also hundreds of thousands living in Afghanistan (after centuries of persecution from various powers drove many across the border for refuge), and according to a 2001 census, about 40,000 are currently residing in Armenia. Many non-Yazidi Muslim Kurds have been ethnically cleansed from Armenia, due to their support for Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but Yazidis are the largest minority group in the country, and fought beside the Armenians in that war. In the early 20th century, the Soviet-backed Azerbaijani government re-populated about 200,000 Kurds from Azerbaijan, to other parts of the Soviet Union, and followed a similar policy of violent no-holes barred suppression of culture, identity and language, as the Turks and Syrians (see below). The numbers of Azerbaijan-based Kurds which supported the Armenians in the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh dispute have been greatly decimated. It is estimated that up to a further 150,000 have been deported from Azerbaijan since 1988 because of this conflict. The remaining Kurdish population in Azerbaijan is hard to gauge. The Kurdish Diaspora further includes about 1.3 million in Western Europe, and up to 200,000 in North America.

Iraqi Kurdistan: The Kurdish Region of Iraq, situated in the north of the country, is also known as Southern Kurdistan, in the context of there being a Greater Kurdistan. It is currently a federal autonomous area of Iraq, but has a much troubled history, since it was first assimilated into the brand new British-mandated nation of Iraq, which was created by the Allies after the defeat of the Ottomans in World War 1. Independence fighters began many campaigns against the governing Iraqi powers, and eventually in 1970, Iraqi Kurdistan was given some autonomy within the nation of Iraq. This autonomy within Iraq was eroded, little by little, due to subsequent wars between the Kurds and Iraqi’s, and because of the Iran-Iraq war, during which both Iraqi and Iranian Kurdistan suffered disproportionally, as prepared to other areas of Iran and Iraq. During the 1980’s, Saddam Hussein then launched the Al-Anfal Campaign, which ruined the land and environment, and which left 100,000 to 200,000 Iraqi Kurds dead. Iraqi troops decimated over 4,000 towns and villages, and herded the Kurds into concentration camps, where they separated the men and older boys from the rest, and killed those whom they deemed to be a threat. Many other Kurds fled into refugee camps in neighbouring Iran and Syria, and the Kurdish population in the area was dramatically lowered, although many did eventually return. During the 1991 First Gulf War, US forces developed a safe haven in Kurdish Iraq, but then reneged on a promise to defend their fight for independence. Saddam then viciously put down that rebellion, leaving massive numbers of Kurds dead, and feeling totally abandoned by the international community. Iraqi Kurdistan then became difficult for Saddam to control, due to the No-Fly-Zone imposed by the US, so it remained independent to a large degree from that point onwards. During the Second Gulf War, that independence was increased, and nowadays it is referred to as a federal entity within the Iraqi constitution, and is fully recognised by the United Nations. Due to it’s rich supply of oil and other natural resources, Iraqi Kurdistan has the lowest poverty rates in Iraq, along with the highest standard of living, and it is currently viewed as the most stable area of the country. No coalition soldiers, or any foreigners for that matter, have been harmed in any way throughout the region, since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

Iranian Kurdistan: There are an estimated four million Kurds currently living in Iran – about 7% of Iran’s total population – and most live in the area officially called Iranian Kurdistan, and which is also known as Eastern Kurdistan, in the context of there being a Greater Kurdistan. This includes parts of West Azerbaijan province, Kurdistan Province, Kermanshah Province and Ilam Province. Kurds are a minority in Iran, but form a majority in that region of the country, and they are currently allowed to express their individual culture in Iran, to some degree, although it has been decimated throughout recent history. In the early part of the 20th century, the Iranian government started a campaign to de-Kurdify the area, after some failed independence bids by the Kurds. Kurdish tribal chiefs were exiled, and lands were confiscated from Kurdish landowners. There was then a massive push to get rid of the Kurdish language, and it was banned from being taught, but things remained relatively stable up until the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution, which the majority of Kurds supported. The leader of the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, did not reciprocate that support, and quickly announced a Jihad (Holy War) on the Kurds who were seeking independence (Sunni Kurds, who form about 60% of Iranian Kurds, the rest being Shia), along with other non-Kurdish opposing voices. Although most Iranian Kurd’s were not openly seeking a breakaway from Iran, Khomeini was worried that the Kurd’s independence aspirations may come again to the fore, and he was deeply suspicious of their different language, culture and cross-border relationships with other Kurdish populations in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Armenia. Large-scale military power brought all of the main Kurdish towns and cities under direct Iranian control, and about 10,000 Kurds were slaughtered, many of whom by execution without trial, just because they disagreed with the new Iranian constitution, which did not allow for any regional autonomy. Since the 1990’s there have been various protests by Kurds, which have left scores dead, usually by heavy-handed Iranian military actions against unarmed protestors, but no major battle for independence has been allowed to flourish amongst Iranian Kurdistan.

Turkish Kurdistan: The Turkish portion of Kurdistan is also know as Northern Kurdistan, and it covers about a third of modern-day Turkey. About 18% of Turkey’s population are considered Kurds, which accounts for roughly half of all Kurds, but some of their culture has been lost due to years of ethnic cleansing by the Turk government, which continues to this day in some forms. After World War I, when this part of Kurdistan was handed over to Turkey following the success of the Turkish War of Independence, the Kurds rose up violently, as they had expected, and wished for, full independence as part of a Greater Kurdistan. The region was eventually declared a military-only zone by Turkey, and was closed to all foreigners from 1925 to 1965, during which time the Kurdish language was banned, the words ‘Kurd’ and ‘Kurdistan’ were erased from all Turkish history books, dictionaries and other literature, and the Turkish Kurds were re-titled as Mountain Turks. In the early 1980’s the PKK (Kurdistan Workers party) emerged, and went on a violent campaign across Turkey, claiming tens of thousands of lives. Their goal was to create an independent Kurdish state, incorporating a large part of Turkey and parts of Iraq, Syria and Iran – a region which contains an overall majority of Kurdish people. The Turkish government has continued to use a heavy hand with any Kurds who openly seek independence, but since 1999, after the European Union gave Turkey a long-overdue ultimatum to stop human rights abuses on the Kurdish population, Turkey has relaxed laws forbidding any displays of Kurdish culture. It appears that Turkey is becoming more tolerant, and that move was also backed up by the release of four Kurdish members of the Turkish parliament, one of which was jailed because she uttered these words in the forbidden Kurdish language after taking her oath… “‘I shall struggle so that the Kurdish and Turkish peoples may live together in a democratic framework”. Identifying herself as a Kurd was considered an act of terrorism, and Leyla Zana was therefore sentenced to 15 years, and served 10 years before her 2004 release. Leyla Zena was further banned from joining any political party until atleast five years after her release, and the PKK have now changed their goal to gaining full cultural and political rights for all Kurd’s in Turkey. But the Kurdish question, and the human rights abuses which are ongoing by Turkey, continue to help prevent the European Union from allowing Turkey to become a full member.

Syrian Kurdistan: This part of Kurdistan, also known as Western Kurdistan, encompasses a thin slice at the top of Syria, and provides a home for 2-4 million Kurds, depending on different estimates, because accurate figures of minorities are not made available by the Syrian government. Kurds are believed to form about 10% to 20% of the overall Syrian population, making them the largest minority ethnic group in the country, although numbers of Iraqi refugees which have fled their country since the 2003 US-led Iraqi invasion, are reaching similar heights nowadays. According to the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, an organisation which claims to represent Syrian Kurds, they would like an autonomous federal region for themselves in Syria, not full independence, but they also campaign for overall democracy in the authoritarian single-party state which has been under Emergency Law since 1963. According to Human Rights Watch, the Kurdish language is banned in Syria – it is illegal to speak it or print it – and children cannot be named Kurdish names. Nobody can start a business with a Kurdish name – adult Kurds must change their names to do so – and Kurds are banned from building their own schools. If Syrian Kurds could speak openly, it is believed that they would ask for full independence.

Macclesfield Bank
(Zhongsha Islands)

Macclesfield Bank is a huge underwater group of reefs and shoals which is claimed and currently controlled by the Philippines. It is one of the largest atolls in the World, covering an area of 6,500 sq km (2,500 sq miles), and is surrounded by excellent fishing waters, but can be dangerous for boats, due to the submerged reefs. It is geographically close to other contested island groups – the Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands, Scarborough Shoal and Pratas Islands – along with which it is often collectively described as the South Sea Islands. China (People’s Republic of China) claims sovereignty over it, as part of it’s Paracels, Spratlys, and Zhongsha Islands Authority, and Taiwan (Republic of China) does the same.
related disputes> Paracel Islands / Pratas Islands (part of Taiwan) / Scarborough Shoal / Spratly Islands

(Departmental Collectivity
of Mayotte)
Mayotte is an overseas collectivity of France, with two main islands, and many smaller islets around them. These islands are geographically part of the Comoros Islands, and are claimed by Comoros, but they have been ruled separately since the 1970’s by the French.
(Nagorno-Karabakh Republic)
Europe / Asia
Claims independence, but Azerbaijan also claims sovereignty. Fighting between the two is currently on hold, after a bloody battle for the entire early 90’s, with the ethnic Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh independence fighters pitted against the Azerbaijani’s. The region, and several other Azerbaijani regions around it, are currently under the joint control of the Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh military’s with a stalemate in place. No states currently recognise Nagorno-Karabakh.
Navassa Island North America
The United States of America claims sovereignty over this uninhabited island, and they currently control it, but Haiti has disputed this sovereignty since 1801. Formerly a mine for a popular fertilizer in the 19th century – Guano phosphate – the 5 sq km (2 sq mile) island is now a US National Wildlife Refuge.
Northern Cyprus
(Turkish Republic of
Northern Cyprus)
Europe / Asia
Claims independence, but the Republic of Cyprus also claims sovereignty. Only Turkey recognises Northern Cyprus, while the rest of the World currently recognises the de jure sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus over the entire island of Cyprus. In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup annexed the island to Greece, and this was followed by an invasion by Turkey in 1983, which has ultimately left the island divided in every sense. Northern Cyprus has become isolated from the rest of the World, and relies on Turkey completely for financial, political and military support.
Northern Ireland Europe
Since the 1100’s, parts of Ireland, or the island in full, has been controlled by Britain to some degree, and this long-term subjugation has lead to a much smaller population than one would expect, centuries of hardship and a legacy of poverty and conflict. Up until recent years Ireland had enjoyed a much lower standard of living than it’s neighbouring island, Britain, and high rates of immigration were normal in all sections of society. After centuries of violent suppression, from the Act of Union on the 1st of January 1801, the entire island of Ireland became part of the newly-created United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. When the Republic of Ireland gained it’s full independence from Britain in 1921, after many wars of independence, Northern Ireland was created within the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland. The island was partitioned, and one-sixth of it – Northern Ireland – remains controlled by the United Kingdom, but with it’s own parliament, constitution, police force and culture. Northern Ireland is comprised of 6 of the counties on the island of Ireland, with the remaining 26 counties currently making up the independent nation, the ‘Republic of Ireland’. Some people living within Northern Ireland want to remain as part of the UK (known as Loyalists/Unionists), whilst others want to be reunited with the rest of Ireland (known as Nationalists/Republicans). The public support within the Republic Of Ireland for a united Ireland is hard to gauge, although there are many passionate advocates, but most main political parties do not consider it an important subject to engage in. There is a ceasefire currently in place within Northern Ireland, with many of the leading paramilitary groups (including the IRA, INLA and UDA) disarming to concentrate on political solutions, although a recent surge in terrorist activity, from fringe groups, has begun once again.
Olivenza & Táliga
(Olivença & Talega)

Portugal controlled the Olivenza and Táliga regions from 1297, until it ceded them to Spain, under the terms of the 1801 Treaty of Badajoz. Both Portugal and Spain now claim sovereignty over this part of Iberia, but Olivenza and Táliga are both currently administered by Spain as part their autonomous community of Extremadura. This dispute has not caused any major diplomatic problems between the countries, even though they both continue to claim their full sovereignty.

Palestine Asia

Claims independence, and two separate Palestinian governments currently control large parts of the West Bank (the Palestinian National Authority) and the entire Gaza Strip (Hamas) as separate entity’s, but most of Palestine is also claimed and controlled by Israel. Over 100 states recognise Palestine, but with varying territorial borders, or in some cases, with no borders specified. Palestinians currently suffer from serious blockades, which has seen – to varying degrees for many decades – them finding it difficult to get food, water and medical supplies into the area, due to being completely surrounded by Israeli-controlled land, the Israeli-controlled ocean, and Arab neighbours who have become allies of the Israeli’s, in support of the blockade against the Palestinians, presumably for financial or political incentives. Both Gaza and the West Bank now resemble large refugee camps, rather than settlements in a fledgling state, and many Palestinian groups claim sovereignty over all of Israel, along with the regions which are currently controlled by Palestinian authorities (the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank), but most have had to publicly tone those wishes down, to enter negotiations with the Israeli’s and various international bodies. Most nations in the World do not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and parts of the West Bank, which are all filled with Israeli settlements, and 20 states do not recognise Israel’s rights over any of Palestine, and therefore do not consider it a country, as that constitutes all of their current territory. A large proportion of the World’s nations do, however, recognise Israel’s sovereignty over most of the land it occupies, which means that most of the World’s governments currently recognise Israel’s full sovereignty over most of Palestine.
related disputes> Golan Heights / Israel

Paracel Islands Asia

With a population of just eight humans, all of which are Chinese temporary military personnel, this bunch of 30 reefs, islets and sandbanks are surrounded by oil deposits. China (People’s Republic of China), Taiwan (Republic of China), and Vietnam have all claimed sovereignty for hundreds of years, but this has only become bloody when the French colonial powers left the area in 1956, and the dispute culminated in China defeating Vietnam in the 1974 Battle of Paracel Islands. The dispute over these islands is interlinked with the dispute over the nearby Spratly Islands.
related disputes> Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha Islands) /
Pratas Islands (part of Taiwan) / Scarborough Shoal / Spratly Islands

Plazas de Soberanía
(translates as ‘Places of Sovereignty’, formerly known as Spanish North Africa)

This is a collection of small North African city states and islands, which all surround Morocco, and which have a combined total population of just over 140,000. They have been controlled by Spain for many centuries, who began the conquest of this area from the time of the Reconquista, an 800 year period in history which saw the Iberian peninsula gradually being taken back from North African Muslims, between 722 and 1492. Spain held great importance over having control over that part of Africa, to stop any future invading tribes before they even left the African continent, but nowadays it is unclear as to what their value is. Morocco claims sovereignty over the small city states of Ceuta and Melilla, and over some local island groups too, including Islas Chafarinas and Peñón de Alhucemas. Morocco also claims two other island groups, Isla de Alborán and Isla Perejil, both of which are geographically close to the others, but are not officially part of the Plazas de Soberanía group of territories. Spain maintains sovereignty over all of these islands and city states, and controls them too.

Rockall Europe
Iceland, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom have all submitted claims of ownership to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and Denmark will do so in 2014 on behalf of the Faroe Islands. Nobody lives on this small remote rock, and claims of ownership are possibly due to the possibility of potential oil and gas deposits in the area.
Sabah Asia

Sabah is a relatively small geographic area in the north of Borneo island, which is governed as a state by Malaysia. They claim full rights over this territory, but the Philippines also does the same, although their claim has been put on hold by recent Philippino governments, in a effort to strengthen economic and political ties with Malaysia. After the Second World War was over, North Borneo, Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore were brought together to form the Federation of Malaysia, a completely new country which would be free from British rule for the first time in centuries. Both the Philippines and Indonesia contested territory issues, but Sabah was declared a state within Malaysia, and the international community continues to recognise the situation in this way. Sabah is currently inhabited by 3.5 to 4 million citizens, who come from a diverse mixture of ethnic backgrounds, making it the third most populous state in Malaysia.

Scarborough Shoal
(Scarborough Reef / Panatag Shoal)

Geographically situated not too far from the also-contested Spratly Island and Paracel Islands, this mound of sand has similar sovereignty issues to it’s more well-known neighbours. The Philippines controls and runs this group, but China (People’s Republic of China) lays claim to it, as part of it’s Paracels, Spratlys, and Zhongsha Islands Authority, and Taiwan (Republic of China) expresses sovereignty too, in the context of being the ‘true ruler of China’. Fishing is important in this part of the ocean, and this is probably the main reason for such a high demand on an circumspect isolated bunch of small low-lying islands and reefs.
related disputes> Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha Islands) / Paracel Islands / Pratas Islands (part of Taiwan) /
Spratly Islands

(Republic of Somaliland)
Claims independence since the 1991 collapse of the central government in Somalia, but Somalia also claims sovereignty. No states, or international organizations, currently recognise Somaliland, but it continues to work away in the background for this recognition. Puntland, another Somali region – which has declared itself as an autonomous region, but does not seek full independence from Somalia – also claims some of the land which Somaliland claims.
South China Sea Islands Asia

The South China Sea Islands is a term used to describe a bunch of mostly-contested island groups in the South China Sea. Various countries lay claim to different parts of this vast collection of mostly uninhabited underwater reefs, including China (People’s Republic of China), Vietnam, Taiwan (Republic of China), Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines. This part of the World Ocean has excellent fishing waters, and holds unknown quantities of oil, gas and other mineral deposits. The islands could also be deemed as important strategic military sites, with a military presence from many of the claimant nations, already situated on some of the islands.
more info about ongoing South China Sea Islands disputes>
Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha Islands)
Paracel Islands
Pratas Islands (part of Taiwan)
Scarborough Shoal
Spratly Islands

South Georgia &
South Sandwich Islands
South America
The United Kingdom controls and claims this group of islands as an overseas territory, but Argentina disputes this sovereignty. The islands came under the governorship of the UK’s Falklands Islands dependency up until 1985, but they are now an independent British overseas territory in their own right. Argentina’s claim on these islands contributed to the 1982 Falklands War.
related dispute> Falklands Islands
South Moluccas
(Republic of the
South Moluccas)
The former Dutch colony, the Dutch East Indies, included the Moluccas islands, up until 1949, when massive pressure from the US forced the Netherlands to accept the independence of Indonesia, after a long and bloody struggle between the two countries. Indonesian leaders considered the South Moluccas as part of the new Republic of Indonesia, but in 1950, demobilized ex-members of the Royal Dutch East Indies Army (KNIL) – still loyal to the Dutch crown – staged a revolt and proclaimed what they termed the ‘Republic of the South Moluccas’, a totally independent state. They were defeated badly in late 1950, and the following year, 12,000 of those soldiers, along with their families, headed over to the Netherlands to form a government in exile. They then surprisingly went on a terrorist campaign against the Dutch, in the Netherlands, possibly due to their perceived lack of support from the Dutch for their cause. Nowadays the exiled government is asking for more autonomy for the region within Indonesia, but still expresses wishes of total independence, even if it is in the very distant future.
related dispute> West Papua
South Ossetia
(Republic of South Ossetia)
Europe / Asia
Claims independence from Georgia since 1990, but Georgia also claims full sovereignty over the region, and attempted to take it back by force, including during the 1991–1992 South Ossetia War, again in 2004, and most recently during the 2008 South Ossetia War. That latest battle saw Russian-backed South Ossetia gaining full control over it’s territory, becoming de facto ruler. South Ossetia is recognised by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Abkhazia, Transnistria and Nauru.
related dispute> Abkhazia
Spratly Islands Asia

The Spratly Islands are a group of more than 650+ reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands, which are located in the South China Sea, and have been uninhabited for many centuries. Different groups of these islands are now claimed variously by China (People’s Republic of China), Taiwan (Republic of China), Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei. All of those nations mentioned, with the exception of Brunei, have military bases and personnel currently on a total of 45 different islands. There are no Spratly Island natives, but the rich fishing waters which surround the islands, and the finding of oil and gas reserves under the islands, has prompted all of those nations to claim their own slice of the action. The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea 2002, was signed by all parties, and by some other South Asian nations. It states that all parties will attempt to resolve sovereignty disputes in a peaceful manner, directly between the countries concerned, and without resorting to the use of force. They also agreed not to inhabit any currently uninhabited islands, reefs, etc.
related disputes> Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha Islands) / Paracel Islands / Pratas Islands (part of Taiwan) /
Scarborough Shoal

+ associated islands; Kinmen, Matsu, the Pratas and Itu Aba
(Republic of China)
The ‘Republic of China’ used to govern most of mainland China, and Mongolia too, but after the Communist Party won the civil war in 1949, the government retreated to the island of Taiwan. Many of Taiwan’s leaders have referred to it as being the true ruler of China, and they still claim sovereignty over China and Mongolia, but the People’s Republic of China still harbours wishes to reunite Taiwan with the mainland, by force if necessary. 23 nations currently recognise Taiwan.
related disputes> Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha Islands) / Paracel Islands / Scarborough Shoal/ Spratly Islands
(Tibet Autonomous Region)
The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), led by the Dalai Lama, considers itself a government in exile, but has recently declared that they are now aiming only for greater autonomy for Tibet within China, not full independence, which the Dalai Lama described as currently being “out of the question”. Tibet is governed by China, with the majority of it geographically included in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. Local support for the ‘Free Tibet Movement’ is hard to gauge, possibly due to the tight Chinese controls, which sees surprisingly little information come directly from within Tibet itself.
(Transnistrian Moldovan Republic)
Claims independence since 1990, but Moldova also claims full sovereignty, and describes it as an autonomous region of Moldova. The 1992 War of Transnistria ended with a ceasefire, which was backed by a deal between Russia, Moldova and Transnistria. The ceasefire has remained in place to this day, although the international political situation for Transnistrian citizens has remained in the balance. A 2005 agreement between Moldova and the Ukraine has seen Transnistrians having to register with Moldova to export items across the border with the Ukraine (apart from Moldova, it’s only other bordering nation), which has severely hit the local population, in a similar way to Israel’s blockade of the Palestinian territories. Transnistria is recognised by South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and has it’s own president, parliament, military, police, postal system, currency, constitution, flag and national anthem.
Tromelin Island
(part of the French overseas territory of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands)
France claims sovereignty over this 1 mile long, and mostly flat, island. They keep a manned meteorological station on the large sandbank-styled island, which also boasts an airstrip that almost covers it’s entire length. Mauritius and the Seychelles both dispute the French sovereignty of this uninhabited island.
Wake Island
(also known as Wake Atoll, part of the United States Minor Outlying Islands)

Wake Island, which is actually three islands surrounding a lagoon, is an unincorporated territory of the United States, administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, which is a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior. There is a US Air Force base on Wake, with missiles ready for launch, and access is strictly limited. The nearby republic, the Marshall Islands, also claims sovereignty over Wake Island, as does another group of independent Marshall Islanders, called the Kingdom of EnenKio. Both claims which originate from the Marshall Islands, involve stories going back centuries, which state that their ancestors had inhabited the island group in ancient times, but no physical proof has been presented by anyone to date. The US took it over as an empty territory in 1899, and it was used as a Pan American Airways stop-off on the US-China route from 1935 until World War II broke out. It was then turned into a permanent military base, was violently taken over by the Japanese during the Battle of Wake Island, and after their WWII surrender, it went back to being a permanent US military base.

West Papua
(Republic of West Papua)
Formerly known as Netherlands New Guinea, after the Dutch colonists pulled out in 1963, it was then suddenly annexed by Indonesia. It declared it’s independence in 1974, as the Republic of West Papua, but that was quickly crushed by the Indonesian military, as was the next effort in 1984, this time as the Republic of Great Melanesia. Those currently seeking independence are aiming to set up a Tribal Democracy, meaning an independent confederation of the tribes of West Papua, but they expect Indonesia to be very tough on those who openly look for it, forcing the independence underground. West Papua is currently the combined Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, Indonesia’s most easterly provinces, which form the western half of the Oceanian island of New Guinea. The independent country, Papua New Guinea, which itself operates with a tribal rural system, forms the other half of the island.
related dispute> South Moluccas
Western Sahara
(Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic – often called SADR)

Claims independence, but Morocco also claims full sovereignty, and continues to control most of this region, since Spain ceded this former colony in 1976. Morocco’s interest is mostly for the rich natural resources in Western Sahara, which has a comparatively small indigenous population (400,000), which had no contact with Moroccans until the 70’s. Currently, 49 nations recognise the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, with embassies in 13 of those nations, but it’s government operates in exile from Algeria (many SADR Refugees are in Algerian camps), and it only really controls about 20% of the territory which it claims. with it’s military wing, the Polisario Front, providing security. SADR calls these lands the ‘Free Zone’, but Morocco describes this as a buffer zone, and has built a fortified wall to keep people in both of these areas separated. Morocco controls the remainder of Western Sahara (as it’s Southern Provinces), and SADR considers these lands as being occupied by a foreign force.