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neutral zone[′nü·trəl ‚zōn]
in international law, a definite geographic region in which preparation for military action is prohibited and which cannot be used as a military theater. As a rule, border and/or disputed land and maritime areas are declared neutral zones. The state involved may form a neutral zone on a unilateral basis or by international agreement. (For example, the territory between Iraq and Saudi Arabia was declared a neutral zone according to the Treaty of Baghdad of 1938.)
A neutral zone can be formed temporarily by a coastal state for security reasons during a war between other states (such neutral zones have been established, for example, by legislation in Belgium, Brazil, the Netherlands, and Japan), or it can be permanent (for example, neutralization of the Strait of Magellan according to a treaty between Chile and Argentina in 1881 and neutralization of the Panama Canal according to a treaty between the USA and Panama in 1903). Temporary neutral zones also include zones established by the combatants for carrying on negotiations (for example, to exchange prisoners of war, wounded, and sick or to negotiate a truce) and for the protection of cultural and historical sites. When a neutral zone is created, it is often demilitarized.