Monday, 13 December 2010

Help offered, but progress slow on Nicaragua-Costa Rica border dispute

Nicaraguan President Daneil Ortega

Another country has joined the queue of parties offering to mediate between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. On 12th December, Costa Rica's vice-chancellor Carlos Roverssi and Ecuador's Ministro de Defensa Javier Ponce confirmed that Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has contacted both Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla several times to offer his mediation.

The dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica dates back to October this year, and is centred on their border along the San Juan River. Nicaragua, who has sovereignty over the river, began a river dredging project in October, and was accused of dumping silt from the river onto Costa Rican land. Costa Rica also complained that the way it was being dredged would encourage the river to change course and move into Costa Rican territory. Nicaragua also stands accused of militarily occupying an island on the river.

Costa Rica, which does not have a military, asked the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) to intervene, and, in November, the organization twice requested that Nicaragua removed its troops, but Nicaragua refused. The case has now been referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, whose ruling on the matter will be binding.

With the case now in the hands of the ICJ, President Ortega seems to have given up on talks. Costa Rica's foreign minister, Rene Castro, said on 10th December, that the government of Nicaragua has rejected their proposal for dialogue. Costa Rica had apparently proposed a series of talks in Liberia, Costa Rica, for 20th December, but Ortega has said that now that the case is referred to the ICJ, he had no business attending Costa Rican-mediated talks.

Contradicting reports say that Ortega has agreed to have a dialogue with Chinchilla in the presence of 'friendly' nations and without conditions. On 10th December, Ortega said, "I am ready today to go anywhere presidenta Laura Chinchilla says, without any conditions."

It seems to be the question of conditions that is the sticking point. It was Chinchilla who apparently proposed the talks for 20th December, but said she would only attend them if Ortega had his troops removed from the disputed territory, and if OAS officials could act as mediators. Ortega is refusing to be restricted by any conditions whatsoever. He has said, however, that he is interested in carrying out the talks with 'friendly' nations as witnesses.

Costa Rica, however, argues that Ortega is being disingenuous. "President Correa proposes a commission of friend countries, but Nicaragua has refused. For that, the position of president Ortega is a lie: because President Correa has offered his country as well as Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico as guarantors to the discussion or solution and Nicaragua rejected it", Roverssi said. Spain and the US have also offered their help in solving the dispute.

According to Roverssi, however, "There is nothing pending, the subject is frozen".

Sources: InsideCostaRica, Fortuna Times
For more information on the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border dispute, see the menas borders website.

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