Monday, 9 May 2011

Ecuador and Peru settle maritime boundary

Ecuador and Peru's maritime boundary will be a straight horizontal line

Peru and Ecuador signed an historic agreement on Monday 2nd May, settling their maritime border, but raising tension with Chile.

The agreement, proposed by Ecuador in March, establishes the maritime border on a horizontal line from the land terminal point at Boca de Capones. Any islands to the north of the line will belong to Ecuador, while those south of the line will be Peruvian.

This new agreement will supersede previous maritime treaties signed by Ecuador, Peru and Chile in 1952 and 1954, which will now be relegated to fishing agreements.

The agreement was approved by Peru's President Alan García and Foreign Minister José Antonio García Belaunde of Peru and their counterparts President Rafael Correa and Ricardo Patiño of Ecuador.

This agreement, while positive, has deeper political implications relating to border principles in the Pacific as Peru and Chile are currently contesting a case at the International Court of Justice in The Hague on their maritime border.

In it, Chile has argued in favour of a horizontal or parallel line extending from the coastline, whereas Peru has argued that the maritime border should follow the downward curve of the land border. That Peru has now accepted a boundary based on logic they are contesting at the ICJ is being seen as hypocrisy by Chile.

Moreover, Ecuador based its line on the 1952 treaty, which is something that Peru has specifically rejected in its dealings with Chile, arguing it, and the 1954 treaty, are merely fishing agreements.

According to national media in Chile, government authorities believe Peru complied with Ecuador's proposal so that Ecuador would not support Chile at the ICJ. Chile had hoped Ecuador would side with it and uphold the treaties of 1952 and 1954, but Ecuadorian involvement will now not occur.

Ecuador has certainly put pressure on Peru and the agreement is being seen as a victory for Ecuador's President Correa. In recent months, Correa has publically called on his Peruvian counterpart García to accept their borders map, or Ecuador would be 'obliged' to take them to court, according to Chile's Santiago Times.

Despite the loss of potential ally Ecuador, Chile will take some positives from Ecuador and Peru's agreement, especially in regards to the legitimacy of its preferred methods of border delimitation.

Peru, however, is also seeing the agreement as strengthening its ICJ case and has defended itself against Chile's complaints.

Peruvian foreign minister García Belaunde told reporters, "The Santiago Declaration of 1952 is very clear. Only in the case of islands should a parallel maritime boundary be considered, which is not the case of the maritime border with Chile."

Peru said that Ecuador's proposed limits were accepted based on the 1952 treaty, which allows for a demarcation line to be established through a parallel 200 miles away when there are islands close to the border. Peru said that there are no islands close to its border with Chile, and so the treaty does not apply.

Garcia Belaunde said the new agreement "is important because it ratifies the premise that Peru has always held up that the agreements of 1954 and 1952 are fishing (accords), and that will strengthen our position at The Hague."

The agreement between Ecuador and Peru still needs to be ratified by the parliaments of both countries, although this is not thought likely to be problematic. After the agreement is ratified, the 1952 and 1954 agreements will be considered only fishing accords.

The Chile-Peru maritime dispute dates back to the War of the Pacific, from 1879-1883, in which Peru and Bolivia lost territory to Chile. Peru and Chile both claim 14,500 square miles of sea, rich is fish, which Chile controls.

In January 2007, Peru began proceedings against Chile at the ICJ. A ruling is not expected until 2013.

Sources: Americas Quarterly, Living in Peru, Santiago Times, UPI

For more information, please see the Menas Borders website, here.

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