Colombia leaves pact recognizing U.N. court rulings

Reuters News

11/28/2012 11:12:42 AM - Reuters News

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia withdrew from a treaty recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice after the entity ruled that Nicaragua had sovereignty over resources-rich waters that Colombia considers its own, President Juan Manuel Santos said on Wednesday.

The U.N. court, based in the Hague, last week ruled that a cluster of disputed islands in the western Caribbean belonged to Colombia and not to Nicaragua, but drew a demarcation line in favor of Nicaragua in the nearby waters.

The decision, which reduced the expanse of sea belonging to Colombia, set off a scramble in Bogota to see how to overturn the verdict and avoid conflict with Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega, who said he had sent ships to the area.

"This is the moment for national unity. This is the moment that the country has to unite," Santos said.

The 1948 treaty, known as the Bogota Pact, recognize ICJ rulings to find peaceful solutions to signatories' conflicts.

Leaving the pact would mean Colombia is not obliged to heed the court's ruling on any future bids by Nicaragua to seek additional territory, the government has said. But its withdrawal would not have retroactive effect, and it would be obliged to comply with last week's ruling.

The ICJ decision increases the size of Nicaragua's continental shelf and economic exclusion zone in the Caribbean, which would give it access to potential underwater oil and gas deposits as well as fishing rights.

In 2007, the court ruled in a long-running dispute between the two countries that three large islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina belonged to Colombia.

(Reporting by Helen Murphy; Editing by Bill Trott)