Court awards Peru swathe of Chile’s sea

January 28, 2014 - 5:36:32 am

Peru’s President Ollanta Humala (centre) and First Lady Nadine Heredia wave to supporters after the court decision on a decades-old maritime dispute between Peru and Chile, at the Government Palace in Lima, yesterday. 

THE HAGUE: Lima cried victory yesterday after the UN’s top court handed it a wedge of sea under Chilean sovereignty, but Peruvian fishermen nevertheless said they gained nothing from the historic ruling.

Peru said it drew “satisfaction” from the world court’s ruling in which it was handed a part of the fish-rich Pacific Ocean, claimed by Chile since the early 1950s, but its southern neighbour slammed the decision.

The Hague-based International Court of Justice confirmed Chile’s sovereignty over waters up to 148 kilometres from the coast but handed Lima a large swathe of less lucrative ocean beyond 

that limit.

In Lima, Peruvians who watched the judgement on giant screens in the city’s historic centre shouted “Viva Peru!” as the outcome became apparent.

“We have won more than 70 percent of our entire demand,” Peru’s President Ollanta Humala said.

“This ruling will be adhered to and respected by Peru and we are confident that Chile will similarly abide by it,” he added.

But Peruvian fisherman slapped down the victory, saying the territory won in the ruling “did nothing to benefit the region.”

“Tacna (a city in southern Peru) lost with this decision,” David Patino of a Peruvian’s fisherman’s association said.

Both Lima and Santiago said before yesterday that they would respect the ruling from the ICJ, which handles disputes between countries.

Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera called the ICJ’s decision “a lamentable loss for our country.”

“While Chile maintains in full its freedom of maritime and air navigation in this zone, without a doubt this transfer is a lamentable loss for our country,” Pinera said in Santiago.

Chilean fishermen voiced disappointment at the ruling but played down its impact.

“This is a bad decision, but not as bad as what we expected,” said a Chilean fisherman from Arica, in the north of the country.

“This is because the government prepared a good defence,” the fisherman said.

Analysts said that Chile had lost little as its fishermen rarely venture further than 40 nautical miles from the coast. After six years of legal wrangling, ICJ judges changed the maritime boundaries which Chile had claimed since the early 1950s, in what they described as an “equitable” solution to a dispute dating back to the 1879 War of the Pacific.

Peru dragged Chile to court in 2008, saying their border in the Pacific Ocean was unclear and accusing Chile of appropriating its territory. Peru claimed sovereignty over a 38,000-square-kilometre fish-rich patch of the Pacific controlled by Chile as well as 27,000 square kilometres that Santiago classifies as “high seas”.

Judges drew a line from a point 80 nautical miles off Chile’s northern border running southwest into the Pacific until it reached almost 200 nautical miles of Chile’s coast, handing Peru the part of the ocean north of the line.

“The Court has defined the course of the maritime boundary between the parties without determining the precise geographical coordinates,” Judge Peter Tomka told delegates representing the two South American neighbours, calling the decision an “equitable solution”. AFP

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