Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Caribbean Sea Space Dispute: Colombia and Nicaraga

A dispute between neighbors (see the map) about valuable sea space as set out here:
While the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled on November 19 that Colombia does in fact own the regional islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina, it gave the expanse of some 120 square kilometers of oil-rich ocean to Nicaragua. Colombia, which has long fought to keep the area, has rejected the decision and officially left the Bogotá Pact, a 1948 treaty which recognizes ICJ rulings to find peaceful solutions to these types of conflicts.

The country claims that by rebuffing the pact, it does not have to follow the decision. But Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega supports the court and says his navy is now “exercising sovereignty in all territory.”
Nicaraguan fishermen report harassment:
Nicaraguan fishing boat captains on the Caribbean Sea say they are “fishing with fear” among Colombian warships that continue to ply Nicaragua’s recently recovered waters beyond the 82nd meridian. But they insist they are doing their patriotic duty to exert Nicaraguan sovereignty in the area.

“We are doing our part to support the government,” says Carlos Javier Goff, president of the Copescharley fishing company out of Puerto Cabezas. “We feel protected by the government and by the international community and, God willing, this won’t go to extremes…it won’t get beyond words and intimidation.”

Goff, whose fishing company has seven boats currently fishing near the 81st meridian, in waters still protected by Colombia despite the Nov. 19 world court ruling that establishes the waters as Nicaraguan territory, says his crews were harassed all last week by Colombian forces. He says his boat captains report the presence of two Colombian warships, which routinely deployed go-fasts to circle the Nicaraguan fishing boats. One of Colombian patrols allegedly attempted to board one of his Nicaraguan fishing vessels early last week, but the captain wouldn’t let the Colombian mariners aboard.

The harassment was also coming from the air, Goff says. “They were doing daily flyovers of our boats last week in helicopters and planes,” he told The Nicaragua Dispatch in a phone interview this morning.
The International Court of Justice materials relating to this dispute can be found here. Colombia has indicated disagreement with the ruling. Below is the press release the ICJ issued on 19 Nov 12:
ICJ Press Release Disp

A report on a meeting between the presidents of Nicaragua and Colombia "Nobody wants war":
Both presidents explained their respective country’s position on the matter and stressed the need for a solution through channels of diplomacy and dialogue.

“Of course nobody wants a bellicose confrontation. That is the last recourse,” Santos told reporters in Mexico following his sit-down with Ortega. “The way to resolve these types of situations is through dialogue—a sensible dialogue in which the positions are clearly stated and established, like we did in telling President Ortega what Colombia’s position is.”

Though the Colombian warships continue to ply Nicaraguan waters two weeks after the ICJ’s ruling, Santos said his country will look for mechanisms for international diplomacy to resolve the issue and “reestablish the rights that the ruling violated.”

Ortega, for his part, repeated that Nicaragua will continue to respect the ancestral fishing rights of the raizal, the Creole population of the Colombian islands of San Andres and Providencia.

“We are giving a message of peace and we are saying with total clarity that we are going to develop mechanisms for communication in all areas mentioned to guarantee the security of everyone, assuring the raizal people of their fishing rights, and also offering guarantees to the fishing industry based on San Andres,” Ortega said.
Something to keep an eye on.

UPDATE: Some thoughts on ramifications Colombia-Nicaragua ICJ Case Tests Region's Crisis Resolution Mechanisms

Circle on map is meant to show general are of dispute. Maps in the ICJ press release show actual areas involved.

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