Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Top 10 Border Stories of 2010

2010 was a busy year in the border world: historic agreements were reached, conflict threatened, and as the year ended, all eyes were on Sudan.

1. Norway and Russia maritime agreement - April
2010 saw increased focus on the arctic region as the continued receding of ice makes oil and gas exploration increasingly tempting and shipping routes more plausible, and in April Norway and Russia came to an agreement over the Barents Sea. The agreement saw the extension of their maritime boundaries through 175,000sq km of previously disputed territory. The resulting 'Barents Sea Pact ' was signed by leaders of each country in September, and now require ratification by parliaments.

2. Slovenia's arbitration referendum - June
The lack of a firm maritime boundary agreement in the Piran Bay has been the main thorn in the sides of the former Yugoslav neighbours, and Slovenia had been threatening to block Croatia's EU entrance until the situation was resolved. In June, Slovenia voted in a national referendum to send the case to international arbitration, thereby creating a path for resolution.

3. Eritrea and Djibouti negotiation - June

The two year standoff between Eritrea and Djibouti over Ras Doumeira inched towards resolution when, in June, it was announced that both sides had agreed to a Qatar-mediated resolution process. The UN welcomed the move, but Eritrea's former master and regional enemy Ethiopia said Eritrea's actions should be viewed with caution.

4. Burkino Faso and Niger refer to ICJ - July

The African Union Border Programme encouraged all African nations to resolve their border disputes by 2012. Likely motivated by this, Burkina Faso and Niger decided to send their dispute over the central section of their border to the ICJ , and they jointly submitted their request in July. ICJ cases have a tendency to last for many years, and in an effort to avoid Nigeria-Cameroon style difficulties, Burkina Faso and Niger have established their own, very strict timeline, and have asked for a panel of experts to be appointed.

5. Thailand and Cambodia temple standoff - July-August
Cambodia's ownership over the eleventh century Preah Vihear temple was accepted by UNESCO in 2008, and tensions rose over the 2010 summer when Cambodia submitted new management plans for the temple and the surrounding area to the organisation. Thailand threatened to drop out of UNESCO, and both sides stepped up their military presence around the temple area. Diplomacy prevailed, and several rounds of talks have been held since.

6. China and India war of words - August
While both countries have tried to emphasise their good relations this year, problems remain between China and India over their disputed Himalayan border. In August, Beijing reportedly denied a visa to an Indian general on an official visit because he oversaw army actions in Indian-controlled Kashmir. India is said to have responded by freezing military exchanges, although exactly what was effected was not clear. Indian concerns over China's actions in neighbouring Burma and Pakistan continued throughout the year, and no progress was made in resolving the decade-long dispute over their shared border.

7. China and Japan island dispute - September
After a Chinese fishing trawler was intercepted and arrested in disputed waters near the Diaoyu (or Senkaku) Islands, relations between China and Japan reached a low. Anti-Japanese protests broke out across China, which continued, even after the captain and crew were released back to China a few weeks later.

8. Nicaragua and Costa Rica San Juan dispute - October

Nicaraguan dredging of the San Juan River, the border between the two countries, but which Nicaragua controls, caused Costa Rican concern, and they accused the Nicaraguan army of occupying some of their land. Reports that Nicaragua were acting based on Google Maps grabbed headlines, and Nicaraguan refusal to leave the land has resulted in the case being taken to the ICJ.

9. North and South Koreas' military clash - November-December
South Korean military execises in disputed waters around Yeonpyeong Island in late November provoked an artillery response from the North, which resulted in four South Korean deaths. South Korea continued to carry out the exercises, supported by US, and while Pyongyang promised further retaliation, they never carried it out.

10. Sudan's run up to the referendum - year long

Preparations for the 9th January 2011 Southern Sudan independence referendum progressed relatively smoothly, despite the South accusing Khartoum of delaying tactics, and Khartoum's displeasure at the presence of UN troops on the North-South border. Talks over Abyei brokedown, however, and it is extremely unlikely that the mooted separate referendum for residents of the oil-rich border region will go ahead. The start of 2011 is likely to see the creation of the first new African nation since 1993, but whether peace can be maintained is yet to be seen.
For more information on any of these stories, see the menas borders website, here.

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