Friday, 17 January 2014
Peru, Chile await ICJ verdict
On 27 January the ICJ will deliver its verdict on the centuries-old maritime border dispute between Chile and Peru. Despite promises from both nations that they will respect the ruling of the Court, the decision will likely strain relations between the Latin American neighbours, who continue to enjoy closer economic bonds through bilateral trade, tourism and investment. The marine area in question is rich in Pacific fish; a vital commodity, considering both states are the world’s top two exporters of fishmeal.
The two countries have no formal treaty in place designating their marine borders, which have been a source of tension between the two countries since Chile invaded Peru in the War of the Pacific (1879-84). Chile considers the matter settled after two treaties in 1952 and 1954 addressed fishing rights in the Pacific Ocean, and stresses that it seeks a climate of peace and harmony with its neighbour. "Chile is a nation that, as we have said on various opportunities, respects international law," said Foreign Affairs Minister Alfredo Moreno in December 2013.
Peru argues the maritime border should follow the downward curve of the land border, rather than the current configuration, which stretches out from the coast along longitudinal lines. Its interpretation of the maritime border area would give Peru control of an additional 37,900km2 of the Pacific Ocean – an area the size of Taiwan. The claim is backed by 99 per cent of Peruvians, according to Peruvian newspaper El Comercio.
The case was initiated by former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo in 2008 after diplomatic efforts aimed at Chile rescinding sovereignty over areas of the waters came to nothing. Current President Ollanta Humalainformed the Chilean government that, while the issue would not be a priority for his administration, they would see the case through. According to cables released by whistle-blowing site Wikileaks, Humala and his predecessors see Peru’s case in The Hague as a way to depoliticise the border dispute. An unfavourable verdict could derail this plan.