The International Court of Justice begins hearing arguments Monday in a long-running dispute between Colombia and Nicaragua over a Caribbean archipelago and the maritime borders surrounding the islands, which some say hold massive deposits of oil.
The case has been
going on for over a decade and in 2007 the Hague-based court ruled Colombia has
sovereignty over the San Andres archipelago's three main islands -- San Andres,
Providencia and Santa Catalina -- based on a 1928 treaty between Colombia and
Nicaragua, Reuters reported.
The new hearings
by the court, which will run for two weeks, are to settle ownership of other,
smaller islands in the archipelago not covered in the 1928 treaty, and to also
settle the nations' maritime borders in the area.
The islands are
140 miles east of Nicaragua and 480 miles north-west of Colombia.
Even after the
2007 ruling by the court, the United Nations' highest judicial body, Nicaragua
President Daniel Ortega continues to affirm Nicaragua is the rightful owner of
the islands. Managua says the 1928 treaty that ceded the islands to Colombia is
invalid because it was signed while the US occupied Nicaragua.
In 2010, Colombia
awarded national oil company Ecopetrol and Spain's Repsol
the rights to explore for oil in the vicinity of the San Andres
islands, hoping it would allow Colombia to become an offshore oil driller for
the first time and boost overall production.
But in October of
last year, President Juan Manuel Santos called off all oil exploration in and
around the islands, citing environmental concerns voiced by island residents.
Analysts wondered at the time whether Santos' decision was more political than
environmental, and whether Colombia may renew oil exploration after the court
makes a ruling in this latest case. The ruling, expected within a year, is
likely to be the final act by the court with regards to the San Andres islands.
Nicaragua-Colombia dispute has been compared by some to Argentina's enduring
demands for the return of the Falkland Islands, which have been under British
control since the early 1830s and have recently been explored for oil by UK
While many other
Latin American nations have supported Argentina's recent efforts at sovereignty
over the Falklands, Colombia's President Santos has remained relatively quiet
on the subject. That might be because one of Argentina's arguments for why it
should control the Falklands is its geographical closeness to the islands--200
miles off Argentina's coast.
proximity has long been one of Nicaragua's main arguments with regards to the
San Andres archipelago.