Disputed territories

From OpenStreetMap Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

There are multiple cases where there is dispute over exact boundary. Sometimes it escalates into outright wars (in which case mapping is typically suspended, OSM is not making daily updates to borders as armies move ) but there are many cases where conflict is frozen and stable.

There has been a previous attempt to document mapping disputed territories in WikiProject United Nations political boundaries. In September 2013, the OSMF issued an official document about this.

Current rule

The 2013 OSMF position paper, Information for officials and diplomats of countries and entities with disputed territories, does not truly establish any new rules for mappers, but simply refers to the on the ground principle.

Currently, we record one set that, in OpenStreetMap contributor opinion, is most widely internationally recognised and best meets realities on the ground, generally meaning physical control. In areas without clearly defined borders, the line is approximate. Our database structure enables map makers to easily ignore this set and substitute another more appropriate to your needs.
— OSMF, 2013

This seems to imply that the main national border (boundary=administrative + admin_level=2) is always supposed to be the one representing actual control. The tagging of alternative claims therefore remain undefined and hence not rendered by the default style. None of the proposals have been brought to fruition.

The on-the-ground ("OTG") rule is known to become less useful when active disputes happen, as both sides will have something on the ground and both are looking to change it. The disputes can be purely military, or more commonly, involve active infrastructure construction, settlement, or even displacement – exactly what OSM wants to map. The deferral to internation recognition can get fuzzy too when major states themselves are involved.

Tag proposals

Some editors are of the opinion that claimed boundaries have value in being recorded. The following proposals are known; if you want to tag too, check taginfo for actual use status first. (To view the taginfo, click the links on the keys -- even red links have taginfo displayed.)



("Common claimant info" refers to keys seen in several proposals: claimed_by=*, disputed_by=*, controlled_by=*, recognized_by=*/recognised_by=*.)

List of cases and their representation in OSM

The following is a list of known instances and the OSM objects where they can be observed, structured by continent and other (if continent is not clear/between continents).

Given how incomplete the list is and how quickly thing can change (humanity!), it might really make more sense to just read Wikipedia:List of territorial disputes. The geolocation on articles can be clicked back to OSM.

Another possible method is to run overpass query to find out nodes/ways/relations that have been tagged with any of the tags mentioned in previously proposed tagging schemees.


Territory Claimants Location Notes
Western Sahara
  • Western Sahara (Sahrawi)
  • Morocco
24.787/-12.107 Western Sahara is a disputed territory in northwestern Africa, partially controlled by the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and partially occupied by neighboring Morocco. See Wikipedia article "Western Sahara"
  • Somaliland
  • Somalia
[1] Actual control line is not drawn, but isn't too much off from admin-boundary border. Independent since 1991, but never recognized. Not sure if a national border should be set – a bit like Taiwan, but less famous.
Halaib Triangle
  • Egypt
  • Sudan
Only Egyptian claim rendered; neighboring Bir Tawil has both non-claims rendered.


Territory Claimants Location Notes
Kashmir conflict relation 14101768 The Kashmir conflict is a territorial conflict primarily between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir region. China has also been involved in the conflict in a third-party role due to its control of India-claimed Aksai Chin. Wikipedia: Kashmir conflict BBC: Why India and Pakistan fight over it

https://openstreetmap.in renders the Indian perspective of the boundaries.

Sino-Indian border India


relation 12931502 There are various ongoing border disputes between China and Indian including Kashmir conflict mentioned above.

Wikipedia: Sino Indian border dispute

Bhutan–China border Bhutan


relation 12931402 Wikipedia: Bhutan–China border
Senkaku Islands China


relation 11612117 WIkipedia: Senkaku Islands
Paracel Islands China


relation 2417005 Wikipedia: Paracel Islands
South China Sea China

Vietnam Philippines

relation 3939323 Wikipedia: Territorial disputes in the South China Sea

China's claim: Nine-dash line

Kuril Islands Russia


relation 14102287 Wikipeida: Kuril Islands dispute
All of China Taiwan has been de facto independent since 1949, but since 1971 most countries recognise only the People's Republic of China and not Taiwan. Nevertheless, common sense dictates that OTG wins over international recognition in this case. The widespread "semi-formal" diplomatic links and the ISO country code assignment helps too. De jure, both states still claim the entire territory of each other.
Israel/Palestine Israel, Palestine Long-lasting, ongoing (settlement and military action), sure to result in a flame war. See Wikipedia:Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

The I/P conflict has been the subject of some research on OSM. See, for example, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2016.11.010 (paywalled).

Abu Musa, Greater Tunb, and Lesser Tunb islands UAE


relation 14365330 In 1971, Iranian forces occupied and annexed the 3 islands, seizing them from UAE territories. Since 1971 UAE had dozens of negotiations with the Iranian side to restore the Emirati islands.
Georgian–Ossetian conflict Georgia, South Ossetia relation 1152717 Wikipedia: Georgian–Ossetian conflict
Abkhaz–Georgian conflict Georgia, Abkhazia relation 1152720 Wikipedia: Abkhaz–Georgian conflict
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict Azerbaijan


relation 11905688 Wikipedia: Nagorno-Karabakh conflict


Territory Claimants Location Notes


Territory Claimants Location Notes
Donetsk relation 71973 Disputes relating to the Russo-Ukrainian War

Crimea is currently mapped as part of both Ukraine and Russia per decision by OSMF. Donetsk and Luhansk are currently not mapped differently from other oblasts of Ukraine.

In 2014, Russian forces occupied and annexed the Crimean peninsula, seizing it from Ukrainian territories. Russian claims to Crimea are not internationally recognized. The United Nations, through General Assembly Resolution 68/262, affirmed that Crimea was part of Ukraine and that Russia's annexation is invalid. Several nations imposed international sanctions on Russia in reaction to its action. As of 2022 Russia continues to occupy Crimea.

On 2014-06-05 DWG taken decision to map Crimea as both within Russia and Ukraine. There was a later resolution by DWG that was reverted, without an explanation, by OSMF.

In 2022 Russia launched a full-scale invasion of the Ukraine, annexed further areas of Ukraine (Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson). Curiously, border of area covered by this claims is not defined anywhere. Russian-Ukrainian war is ongoing with large shifts in controlled territories.

In early April of 2022, the Ukrainian OSM community has published an appeal to the OSM community and its members, urging everyone to refrain from any mapping of the territory of Ukraine while the conflict is unfolding.

Luhansk relation 71971
Crimea relation 3788824
Tuzla Island and Strait of Kerch; Sarych 45.2645/36.5717 The conflict arose in 2003 when the Russian authorities started to build a dam towards the island. Since then Ukraine established a border garrison on the island for a closer surveillance. The reason for the conflict is the fact that Tuzla island's strategic location gives Ukraine full rights over the main channel in the Strait of Kerch and, thus, the access to the Sea of Azov. The conflict is based on the division of the Black Sea Fleet and a lease agreement of the Sevastopol Naval facilities.
Sea of Azov 45.915/37.371 ("Mutual jurisdiction")
Aegean dispute, Imia/Kardak Greece


Broad number of delimitation disputes about a.o. national airspace, territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. Includes Imia/Kardak dispute.
Mont Blanc summit dispute France


France asserts that the principal peaks on the Mont Blanc massif—Dôme du Goûter, Punta Helbronner, and Mont Blanc lie in French territory, while Italy asserts that the summits are shared.
Carlingford Lough and Lough Foyle boundary dispute Ireland

United Kingdom

Lough Foyle divides County Donegal, Republic of Ireland, and County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Carlingford Lough divides County Louth, Republic of Ireland, and County Down, Northern Ireland.
Gibraltar United Kingdom


Dispute over the interpretation of the Treaty of Utrecht and the location of the border.
Mouth of the river Ems Kingdom of the Netherlands


[2] Administrative borders are mapped in OSM as claimed by both nations, and thus overlap.

The 1960 Ems-Dollard Treaty defined an area of cooperation between both nations ("Eemsmonding / Emsmündung"). Within the cooperation area, bilingual "Dutch / German" name tags are used in OSM. The cooperation area extends beyond the actually disputed area. It used to fully contain the disputed area, but no longer does since the extension of territorial waters.

The 1962 Supplementary Agreement to the Ems-Dollart Treaty and the 2014 West Ems Treaty divide jurisdiction of the disputed area regarding installations and natural resources. This "line" is also mapped in OSM.[1]

Lake Constance
  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Switzerland
Switzerland holds the view that the border runs through the middle of the lake.

Austria is of the opinion that the contentious area belongs to all the states on its banks.

Germany holds an ambiguous opinion.

Former Olivenza region Spain


relation 13562341 In 1801, during the War of the Oranges, Spain, with French military support, occupied the territory of Olivenza (in Portuguese Olivença). During the Treaty of Vienna (1815), the signatory powers (including Spain) agreed with the Portuguese arguments concerning its claim on Olivença but Spain never fulfilled its duty of giving the city of Olivença and its territory back to Portugal.

The disputed area is the boundary of the ancient region of Olivenza, which currently corresponds to the boundaries of relation Olivenza municipality, relation Taliga municipality and a small territory to the NE (Los Fresnos). May be missing a small region in Southwest according to this image in Wikipedia. More info at Olivenza#Claims_of_sovereignty on Wikipedia

Croatia-Serbia border dispute Croatia


Limited areas along the Danube

Parts of Osijek-Baranja and Vukovar-Syrmia Counties and West and South Bačka Districts

Gulf of Piran Slovenia


An agreement was signed (and ratified by Croatia's parliament on 20 November 2009) to pursue binding arbitration to both the land and maritime portions of this continuing dispute.

In 2015 collusion between the Slovenian judge on the arbitration panel and a representative from the Slovenian government was uncovered. The Croatian Sabor voted to withdraw from the arbitration, citing allegations of significant breaches of arbitration rules by Slovenia as the reason.

Despite this the arbitration tribunal continued its work, issuing a ruling in 2017.

Prevlaka Croatia


Sastavci Serbia

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Island of Šarengrad Serbia


Military complex near Sveta Gera, in the area of Žumberak/Gorjanci Slovenia


Veliki Školj and Mali Školj (near Neum) Croatia

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Island of Vukovar Croatia


North America

Territory Claimants Location Notes
Machias Seal Island
  • Canada
  • United States
44.4936/-66.9088 Currently rendered as United States (Maine) territory, despite only Canadians staying on the island.
Oyster Pond France (Saint-Martin)

Kingdom of the Netherlands (Sint Maarten)

[3] The 1648 Treaty of Concordia is inconclusive with respect to this part of the border. The Kingdom of the Netherlands claims the border is along the northern shore, but France claims the border is in the middle of the water. Administrative borders are mapped in OSM according to these claims, and thus overlap. Definitive border negotiations are awaited, but currently delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Focal point of the conflict is relation Captain Oliver's Marina and way Restaurant, which had been de facto in the Kingdom of the Netherlands since its opening in 1983. France initially agreed with this, but changed its mind in 1996. In 2014, both nations agreed to maintain the status quo until the dispute is settled. French authorities have conducted inspections of the place, to which the Dutch government has issued letters of protest. The marina was badly damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and has not yet been rebuilt as a result of the intensified border conflict. In 2020, the owner of the marina unsuccessfully sued the Dutch government for lack of protection against France.

Navassa Island
  • United States
  • Haiti
Dixon Entrance
  • Canada
  • United States
54.5729/-132.0145 [2]

South America

Territory Claimants Location Notes
Tigri Area/New River Triangle Suriname


02.483/-57.328 In 1969 the conflict ran high on, and since then it has been controlled by Guyana and claimed by Suriname. In 1971, both governments agreed that they would continue talks over the border issue and withdraw their military forces from the disputed triangle. Guyana has never held upon this agreement.
Suriname-France Suriname

France (French Guiana)

02.683/-54.142 Disputed between Suriname and French Guiana since Colonial times, most southern part of their border still needs to be settled.
Mar de Grau beyond 12 nautical miles Peru (traditional interpretation of its constitution)

United States (claims it is outside territorial sea)

The constitution of Peru claims a "maritime domain" of 200 nautical miles, which was later named Mar de Grau. This claim has traditionally been interpreted as a territorial sea of 200 nautical miles. According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), territorial seas cannot exceed 12 nautical miles. At least the United States explicitly rejects Peru having a 200 nautical mile territorial sea.[3]

Peru's own position on the nature of its maritime domain is unclear. Peru has never ratified UNCLOS. However, in 2010, Peru declared that the "[UNCLOS] rules are applicable in so far as they are part of customary international law or reflect general principles of law".[4] Furthermore, during proceedings at the International Court of Justice, Peru has stated that the "term 'maritime domain' used in [Peru's] Constitution is applied in a manner consistent with the maritime zones set out in the 1982 [UNCLOS] Convention", which the Court interpreted as a "formal undertaking".[5]

On the one hand, these declarations by Peru suggest the traditional interpretation of its constitution is incorrect, and instead it effectively has a territorial sea of 12 nautical miles and an exclusive economic zone between 12 and 200 nautical miles (probably lacking a contiguous zone because such zones need to be explicitly declared[6]). On the other hand, Peru has never formally divided its maritime domain into separate maritime zones with separate regulations that are consistent with UNCLOS.

In OpenStreetMap, the boundary=administrative of Peru currently follows the traditional interpretation of the constitution, with the relevant sections marked with disputed_by=US. The boundary=maritime of the Mar de Grau does not specify the border_type=*.


Territory Claimants Location Notes
All territorial claims in Antarctica 7 states claiming

2 states reserving right to claim

54 states partially controlling via Antarctic Treaty System

relation Antarctica No acts or activities can support territorial claims, see: Antarctica