On Wednesday, representatives of the Bolivian and Chilean governments met for the first time at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague for a preliminary meeting to establish the timetable and other details for a case around a long-standing disagreement over the countries’ maritime borders.
Bolivia filed a formal lawsuit against Chile with the ICJ in April, demanding that the court force Chile to negotiate in good faith to provide land-locked Bolivia a sovereign outlet to the Pacific Ocean. Bolivia lost access to the sea in 1904, when it signed a treaty to end the War of the Pacific—a war sparked by conflict over mining rights. Bolivia is seeking land that is currently part of Chile’s Atacama region.
During Wednesday’s meeting—the first step in a long process before the case actually comes before the court—former Bolivian President Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé met behind closed doors with Chilean Ambassador to the United States Felipe Bulnes to discuss dates and other logistics for the proceedings.
After the meeting, Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno denounced the lawsuit as unfounded, upholding Chile’s decades-long dismissal of Bolivia’s territorial claim. Meanwhile, the Bolivian government maintains that the 1904 treaty was signed under pressure from Chile and is therefore invalid.
If the case goes forward, this will be the first internationally arbitrated attempt to solve the dispute. Previous negotiations have failed and the two countries have never re-established diplomatic ties since they lapsed after a previous failed negotiation in 1978.
South American neighbors Peru and Ecuador signed an historic agreement yesterday, setting the maritime border between both countries after over 120 years in dispute. This new accord supersedes previous maritime treaties between the two countries signed in 1952 and 1954. The agreement, approved by President Alan García and foreign minister José Antonio García Belaunde of Peru and their counterparts President Rafael Correa and Ricardo Patiño of Ecuador, now heads to the legislative branches of both countries. The treaty is expected to be ratified easily.
The new agreement, which both countries see as a positive step toward future cooperation, establishes the maritime border between the Andean neighbors on a perfectly horizontal line extending into the Pacific from the point where both countries meet on the Pacific Coast at Boca de Capones. Any islands to the north of the line would belong to Ecuador while Peru retains governance over islands to the south. In a sign of mutual accord, both countries are sending the agreement to the United Nations for recognition across all UN bodies and organizations.
The agreement leaves Chile alone in its dispute with Peru over their maritime border. By setting their bilateral maritime border, Ecuador and Peru relegate the previous treaties—signed by Ecuador, Peru and Chile in the 1950s—to little more than fishing agreements, thus bolstering Peru’s claims as presented to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague in January 2008. While Chile had hoped Ecuador would side to uphold the treaties of 1952 and 1954, and their maritime border implications, the new agreement between Ecuador and Peru effectively removes Ecuador from the dispute altogether leaving Chile to plead its case alone. The ICJ is not expected to have a ruling on the dispute between Chile and Peru until 2013.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) heard Costa Rica’s formal complaint against Nicaragua yesterday—initially filed in November 2010—regarding the ongoing border dispute along the San Juan River. Nicaragua will present its arguments today.
Costa Rica’s delegation headed by Jorge Urbina, the permanent representative to the United Nations, presented historical maps from Costa Rica-Nicaragua bilateral agreements with accompanying satellite photographs of the disputed region. Foreign minister René Castro was “satisfied” with his government’s testimony before the panel of 16 judges at the ICJ. Castro added: “Costa Rica does not accept the thesis [of Nicaragua] that the end justifies the means.”
The border argument took form in October 2010 when Costa Rica alleged that Nicaraguan forces were operating on Calero, an island in the San Juan River, and performing dredging operations—which Costa Rica claimed damaged the environment. After a successful appeal to the Organization of American States (OAS), and the subsequent recommendation of Secretary General José Miguel Insulza for Nicaragua to remove troops from Calero, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega threatened to withdraw unilaterally from the OAS.