Colombia asks international judges to throw out Nicaragua’s claims to the disputed archipelago of San Andres.
“Nicaragua wants to redefine the future of 80,000 Colombians [residents of San Andres],” James Crawford, an expert in international litigation told a hearing at the International Court of Justice at the Hague. “But we are talking about real people here.”
Julio Londoño Paredes, a Colombian representative at the hearing, told judges, “Nicaragua’s proposal to create a new demarcation at sea is unacceptable,” referring to the Central American nation’s challenge to Colombia’s sovereignty over the maritime territory.
Colombia has controlled the archipelago, which includes the islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina, since the 1928 Esguerra-Barcenas Treaty. Nicaragua has long disputed the treaty which was put into effect while the country was under U.S. military occupation.
Although the ICJ ruled in favor of Colombia’s sovereignty over the archipelago in 2007, the present hearings are primarily concerned with the maritime boundaries around several small islands that Nicaragua feels were unclearly designated when the treaty was signed over 80 years ago.
In its remarks, Nicaragua asked the court to “resolve this injustice” and come to a “fair” distribution of the disputed maritime borders.
Colombia’s Congress asked the UN to step in to help resolve the dispute Thursday. A decision is not expected for months.
The two groupings of islands are throught to be rich in oil. UNESCO declared the islands a heritage site in 2000, meaning the disputed area could not be exploited for petroleum and gas, according to President of the Colombian Senate’s Commission of International Affairs Alexandra Moreno Piraquive.
Colombia’s state-owned oil company Ecopetrol began drilling on the island in 2010 before President Juan Manuel Santos suspended operations due to environmental concerns, although analysts think the move was made to avoid a political spat with the Central American country.
In turn, Nicaragua suspended oil exploration efforts in waters to the west of San Andres in May 2011 after a civil action was brought by environmental agency Coralina.