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UN court awards Honduras sovereignty of four cays in dispute with Nicaragua

UN court awards Honduras sovereignty of four cays in dispute with Nicaragua

The United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) today awarded Honduras sovereignty over four cays in the Caribbean Sea and delineated its maritime boundary with Nicaragua as part of a ruling on the long-running border dispute between the two Central American countries.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon immediately welcomed the judgement, issued by the ICJ in The Hague, and voiced trust that the two nations would now implement the decision in full.

“This important judgement illustrates the essential role of the International Court of Justice in peacefully resolving international disputes,” his spokesperson said in a statement.

The 17-member court ruled unanimously that Honduras has sovereignty over Bobel Cay, Savanna Cay, Port Royal Cay and South Cay. Also known as a key, a cay is a small, low-lying island or reef.

A majority of the court’s judges then ruled on the starting point and outline of the single maritime boundary separating the territorial sea, continental shelf and exclusive economic zone of the two countries.

Announcing their decision, the judges said the starting point had been fixed three nautical miles out to sea from the point where a 1962 commission had identified as the end of the land boundary in the mouth of the River Coco.

The shifting deposits left by the River Coco means the exact site of the river mouth remains uncertain, the ICJ said, instructing Nicaragua and Honduras to take part in negotiations to agree on the course of a line between the endpoint of the land boundary and the start of the maritime boundary three miles out to sea.

Today’s ruling was issued after Nicaragua brought proceedings at the ICJ against Honduras in 1999, saying that diplomatic negotiations over the disputed boundary had failed.

Sometimes known as the World Court, the ICJ adjudicates disputes between States and its judgements are binding and cannot be appealed.