Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega took small steps this year toward mending chilly relations between their countries.
The two leaders met in August for the first time since they returned to their respective presidencies. During the meeting in Managua, they announced their intention to restart the Binational Commission, a 1990s effort to create a permanent dialogue to address issues of common interest.
The Commission was suspended in 1997 during an escalation of tensions over Costa Rica’s right to navigate along the San Juan River, which runs between the two countries. That issue is now before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
The presidents met again in November in San José. Arias said he would forgive an “important part” of Nicaragua’s $630 million debt, and the presidents will seek help from developed countries in paying the rest. The presidents said they would meet again in January in Nicaragua to discuss tourism and the environment, among other issues.
The personal tension between Ortega and Arias dates back to the 1980s, when they were Presidents of their respective countries. Ortega has questioned whether Arias merited the Nobel Peace Prize he won in 1987 for drafting a regional peace plan. Of plan’s original signers, only Nicaragua was not represented at an August summit in San José celebrating the plan’s 20th anniversary.