Nicaragua will dispute Costa Rica border visit at the world court

April 3, 2011

MANAGUA – Nicaraguan officials say they will file a formal complaint against Costa Rica with the International Court of Justice in the latest chapter of an ongoing border dispute between the two countries. Nicaraguan officials say Costa Rica is violating provisional orders from a previous court ruling.

Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry official César Vega says a visit to the disputed border area near the San Juan River by Costa Rican officials and a delegation from the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, or Ramsar, violates a March 8 world court ruling that ordered both countries to keep military, police and other official delegations out of the area known as Isla Portillos.

“We are going to notify the court that Costa Rica is not complying with the provisional order, because the same ruling allows us to do so,” Vega said, according to the Foreign Relations Ministry’s press office.

According to the court ruling, members of an official Costa Rican delegation can inspect the disputed area if accompanied by members of Ramsar and after giving prior notice to Nicaraguan officials.

Costa Rican officials plan to visit the area Tuesday. Costa Rica did notify Nicaraguan officials four days ago about the pending visit of Ramsar experts, but on Friday Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos wrote a letter to his Costa Rican counterpart, René Castro, saying Nicaragua opposed the trip.

“Costa Rica is misinterpreting the content of the [court’s] resolution to fit their needs,” Vega said. “Nicaragua and Costa Rica should abstain from aggravating the situation by sending people to the disputed area.”

Vega described Costa Rica’s planned trip as “a provocation.”

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.

“There is no motive for the trip,” Santos said, accompanied by Environmental Vice Minister Roberto Araquistain.

Santos said the proper procedure would be for San José to send Managua the reasons for the visit and an evaluation by Ramsar specialists.

“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.

Costa Rica responded to the most recent comments from Managua by accusing Nicaragua of “bad faith” in trying to prevent Ramsar specialists and Costa Rican environmental experts from inspecting the area.

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