|Mexican secretary for foreign affairs, Patricia Espinosa|
Thursday, 20 January 2011
Mexico holds talks with Costa Rica and Nicaragua on river border dispute
As Costa Rica and Nicaragua await the first part of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision on their border dispute case, specifically the alledged Nicaraguan military presence on the disputed Calero and Portillos islands, Mexican-led talks continue in an effort to find a diplomatic solution.
The 'facilitation' exercise took place in the Mexican city of Cuernavaca on Wednesday 19th January and involved representatives from Mexico, headed by secretary for foreign affairs, Patricia Espinosa, and her Guatemalan counterpart, Haroldo Rodas holding broad-reaching talks with delegations from both Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
The Costa Rican delegation was headed by Melvin Saenz, while Nicaragua was represented by Denis Moncada. The Costa Rica delegation and the Nicaraguan delegation did not speak directly, although in a joint statement issued at the end, they thanked Mexico for its hospitality and expressed their appreciation to Guatemala for offering to host the second meeting of the facilitation exercise.
The facilitation exercise is being seen as a political mechanism that is taking place in addition to the ICJ process. The ICJ is expected to produce a judgement on the first issue on question – Nicaragua's military presence – in the coming weeks, while the other issues – Nicaragua's dredging of the San Juan river, and the construction of a canal in the area, which Costa Rica is saying is causing environmental damage – will likely take a few years for a judgement to be made.
While local media is reporting the talks as a success, the fact that the two sides will not engage in direct discussions with each other suggests resolution is a long way off. A statement released by the Costa Rica's Foreign Ministry on Monday 17th January said the they would not have direct dialogue with Nicaraguan officials while troops remained on the Isla Calero.
Costa Rica has gone on the offensive in recent weeks as Foreign Minister Rene Castro makes the round of European cities garnering support. He has confirmed that Germany's foreign minister has offered him support in the conflict. Castro has also visited the UK, where he met with British UN Ambassador Henry Bellingham to discuss he 'grave destruction' caused by the Nicaraguan troop presence on 17h January. He also met with the UK's Energy Secretary Chris Huhne to discuss the conflict.
Costa Rica has also taken steps to increase the security along their border. Public Security Minister José María Tijerino announced last week that work had begun in late December to enhance security along three Costa Rican rivers that join the San Juan River. They have set up heliports where the Colorado, Saripiquí and San Carlos rivers join the San Juan to facilitate government air traffic and to monitor security along the border. Tijerino also said that they planned to install fences around the river deltas and build new roads to provide better access to border regions.
Prime Minister Laura Chinchilla also said recently that the number of police on the border would likely increase in coming months. The Costa Rican moves come hot on the tails of a new defence-law package in Nicaragua, which is likely to result in the further militarisation of the Nicaraguan border.
Sources: Tico Times, Inside Costa Rica, ISRIA
For more on the Nicaragua-Costa Rica dispute, see the Menas Borders website, here.