San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Foreign minister decries Nicaraguan oil concessions in Costa Rican waters

Tensions flared between quarrelsome neighbors Monday morning as Costa Rica accused Nicaragua of offering oil concessions in its territory. 

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo penned a letter to his Nicaraguan counterpart protesting the action and demanded “Nicaragua not grant concessions for the exploration or exploitation of blocs or maritime areas in the Pacific Ocean nor the Caribbean that cross into Costa Rican waters.”

The letter insisted the “immediate withdrawal” of all promotional materials relating to concessions listed in the publication “Petroleum Promotional Folder of Nicaragua,” produced by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Energy and Mines.

The minister named 55 blocs for oil exploration and development in the Caribbean and 18 in the Pacific that “indisputably” lie in Tico territory listed in the February 2012 report.

In 2011, Costa Rica declared a three-year moratorium on oil exploration, this publication previously reported. 

“Costa Rica reserves the right to take, and will take, any and all judicial action, both locally and internationally, against any claim made in relation to these spaces or resources,” added Castillo’s letter.

Minister Castillo mentioned the oil concessions as part of Nicaragua’s “expansionist policy” during a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, D.C., on July 19. The complaint from San José remembered a similar dispute in 2002 between the Central American neighbors over their shared maritime borders. Nicaragua cut off talks in 2005, according to the letter. The minister added that Nicaragua did not accept a recent offer to restart negotiations during his talk at CSIS. 

Besides the initial disputes over offshore concessions, Costa Rica and Nicaragua are also at loggerheads over Nicaragua’s alleged violation of Tico territory when it occupied Isla Calero as part of its dredging of the San Juan River, which serves as part of the border between the two countries. Nicaragua also claims sovereignty over the island.

The dispute is currently under review by the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Both countries have agreed to honor the court’s decision.

Costa Rica has criticized Nicaragua’s refusal to vacate the island during the deliberations and its decision to establish a Sandinista youth camp there.

Castillo told the same audience at CSIS that Nicaragua “isn’t a good neighbor,” citing various border disputes, its attempts to expand its territorial seas and the oil concessions in question. 

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