Colombia’s Congress has asked the United Nations for help in its sovereignty battle with Nicaragua over a Caribbean archipelago, reported newspaper El Espectador Thursday.
The area incorporating the islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina, under Colombia’s control since 1928, “must not end up being affected and damaged by mercantilism eagerness,” said a letter sent by the Senate’s Commission of International Affairs to UNESCO.
Nicaragua has long disputed Colombia’s sovereignty over the islands, and took its claim to the International Court of Justice in The Hague last month.
Commission President Alexandra Moreno Piraquive reminded UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova that her body had declared the archipelago a protected area in 2000. He claimed this meant it could not be exploited for petroleum and gas, as Nicaragua allegedly intended.
The region had “immense richness of marine biology” and should be considered “heritage of humanity,” said the politician.
Colombia has maintained control over the territory since the 1928 Esguerra-Barcenas Treaty, which was put into effect while Nicaragua was under U.S. military occupation.
The Hague-based court ruled in favor of Colombia’s sovereignty over the archipelago in 2007. The new hearings, which are expected to run for months, seek to determine the ownership of several smaller islands not included in the original treaty, as well as settle maritime borders in the area.