Nicaragua opposes visit by Costa Rica, Ramsar observers to disputed border area

April 2, 2011

MANAGUA – Nicaraguan officials said Saturday they would block a visit from Costa Rican observers and a mission from the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar), planned for Sunday. Observers intend to visit a disputed area along the border between the two countries to evaluate possible environmental damage caused by Nicaraguan soldiers and workers operating in the area since October.

Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos sent a letter to his Costa Rican counterpart, René Castro, stating that his country’s decision falls within the scope of a March 8 ruling by the International Court of Justice.

“Nicaragua believes that in order to comply with the court’s ruling, which not only requires Nicaragua to be notified in advance, but also that requires that ‘the best efforts be made to find common solutions,’ it’s not enough to simply notify us two working days in advance of a visit, without any explanation as to why the visit is necessary,” Santos said.

Any exception to the world court’s ruling, said Santos, requires that Costa Rica “show proof that there is a danger of irreparable damage to the disputed territory,” and that Ramsar should be consulted and agree also that irreparable damage has happened.

Santos said the proper procedure would be for San José to send Managua the reasons for the visit and an evaluation by Ramsar, whose specialists have a second visit planned for Sunday.

“We also believe it is necessary that Ramsar’s evaluation takes into consideration that experts visited Nicaragua on March 12. During that visit, Ramsar observers toured the area near the disputed territory, including Harbor Head and the San Juan River, which help maintain important wetland areas in the region,” Santos said.

Nicaraguan officials also say they have not yet received an official Ramsar report describing the previous visit.

Officials in Managua say they would rather wait for an upcoming April 12 meeting between representatives from the two neighboring countries.

“We believe that date allows sufficient time for Costa Rica and Ramsar officials to communicate” their reasons for wanting to visit the area, Santos said in the letter, which was sent to local journalists.

However, the two countries have yet to agree on a meeting place.

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