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Hague Ruling Celebrated; Relations With Colombia Sour

December 21, 2007
The government of Daniel Ortega is celebrating for the second time this year a border ruling by the International Court of Justice that favors Nicaragua.
The World Court at The Hague ruled Dec. 13 to uphold a contested 1928 treaty between Colombia and Nicaragua that granted the former sovereignty over the Caribbean islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina, but said that it has jurisdiction to rule on some 50,000 square kilometers of disputed maritime area of valuable fishing waters and potentially untapped oil resources.
Colombia maintained the court had no jurisdiction in the matter.
Both countries are expected to submit to the World Court their cases regarding the maritime border at the beginning of next year.
“We have a pending resolution with the court regarding the case of Colombia,” Ortega said Dec. 13. “We hope that Colombia respects what the court said, which means that Nicaragua has maritime borders that extend beyond the 82nd parallel and the great riches that there are on that continental platform.”
Despite losing claim to the islands, Foreign Minister Samuel Santos celebrated the ruling as “an advance in the civilized  processes of settling a dispute betweennations.”
Nicaragua last October celebrated the World Court’s ruling on its border dispute with Honduras, which redefined the maritime limits to above the 15th parallel, giving Nicaragua more ocean. The ruling on the Honduras case and the pending decision on Colombia will help Nicaragua clearly define its maritime borders in the Caribbean for the first time in its history.
Despite the peaceful resolution to the long-standing border conflict with Colombia, bilateral relations have tensed over the past month for other reasons.
Ortega, a key ally and defender of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, has sided with the fiery Venezuelan leader after he “froze” relations with Colombia last month following Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s decision to withdraw support for Chávez’s mediation role between the Colombian government and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Ortega, who had lauded Chávez’s mediation work as “leaving a light on the path” toward peace,” last week accused Uribe of being “pressured” – presumably by the United States – to remove Chávez from the  role. Ortega went on to call FARC guerrilla leader Manuel Marulanda a “dear brother,” prompting Bogota to ask the Nicaraguan president for clarification on what he meant by using affectionate terms for someone who is considered a terrorist.
Ortega, instead, responded by blaming Uribe for his handling of several hostage situations, prompting the Colombian government this week to call Ortega “shameless.”
 

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