World Court rejects Nicaragua claims in maritime border dispute with Colombia

AMSTERDAM/BOGOTA (Reuters) -The World Court on Thursday rejected a suit by Nicaragua seeking to define and expand its deep sea economic rights beyond those previously established in a long-running maritime border dispute with Colombia.

Judges found that Nicaragua’s offshore rights to 200 nautical miles (370 km) have previously been established. The World Court, or International Court of Justice, is the U.N. court for resolving disputes between nations.

“A great victory for Colombia in The Hague,” Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro said in a message on Twitter.

The Colombian archipelago includes the islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina.

In November 2021, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Category 5 Hurricane Iota slammed into Providencia, destroying or damaging nearly all of the infrastructure on the island, which is home to some 6,000 people.

“With this ruling we hope to close the border dispute and focus on bringing sustainable development to our archipelago,” Petro said.

Since the early 20th century Nicaragua and Colombia have disputed ownership of the mineral and fish-rich waters in the Caribbean Sea, though the two countries do not share a land border.

Nicaragua had asked the World Court to define boundaries beyond 200 nautical miles based on the continental shelf extending from its territory.

“Irrespective of any scientific and technical considerations, Nicaragua is not entitled to an extended continental shelf within 200 nautical miles from the baselines of Colombia’s mainland coast,” court President Judge Joan Donoghue said, reading the decision.

In a 2012 ruling, the same court determined maritime boundaries between the countries in a decision that reduced the expanse of sea belonging to Colombia and gave Nicaragua rights to some underwater oil and gas deposits, as well as fishing rights.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling in Amsterdam and Oliver Griffin in Bogota; Editing by Barbara Lewis and Alistair Bell)