MEXICO CITY – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said he has agreed with his Nicaraguan counterpart, Daniel Ortega, “to establish lines of communication” to resolve through diplomatic channels the maritime dispute between the two countries.
Santos told a press conference at a hotel in the Mexican capital that he had talked with the Nicaraguan president about the need to manage the matter “with a cool head, in a friendly, diplomatic and civilised fashion, as such matters should be handled.”
He also told Ortega that he would continue using international diplomacy to restore Colombia’s rights, following the decision of the Hague-based International Court of Justice, ICJ, which redrew the maritime boundaries in the Caribbean between the two nations.
Santos announced Wednesday that Colombia was pulling out of a pact recognising the ICJ jurisdiction over its territorial disputes, a step in response to the court’s decision setting new maritime borders with Nicaragua.
After meeting with Nicaragua’s president in Mexico City, where both were attending the inauguration of Enrique Pena Nieto as president, Santos said he agreed with Ortega on the importance of avoiding “incidents.”
“Nobody wants a warlike confrontation – that is the last recourse. The way to fix situations like this is through commonsense talks in which positions are established and clearly stated,” he said.
Finally, he said that his country will continue exploring “every means available to defend the rights of Colombians”.
For his part, Ortega offered to work closely with Santos to “overcome any obstacle” following the decision of the International Court of Justice, according to the Nicaraguan government’s Web site El 19.
According to the website, Ortega again told Santos that Nicaragua is dedicated to peace and that it will respect fishing rights for the inhabitants of the Colombian island of San Andres in this new maritime territory obtained by the Central American country through the court’s decision, which Managua estimates at more than 90,000 sq. kilometres.
The Hague-based ICJ ruled on Nov. 19 that seven Caribbean islets belong to Colombia, ending a three-decade-long dispute between the Andean nation and Nicaragua.
The world court had earlier confirmed Bogota’s claim to the larger islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina, part of an archipelago that lies 775 kilometres from mainland Colombia and 220 kilometres from the coast of Nicaragua.
While giving the islets to Colombia, the decision also significantly expanded the waters under Nicaraguan control. The waters conceded to Nicaragua include lucrative fishing grounds and what are thought to be substantial oil deposits.