UN court orders Costa Rica, Nicaragua to keep the peace

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The UN's highest court on Tuesday ordered Costa Rica and Nicaragua not to deploy or maintain any military or civlian personnel in a disputed area along their common border.

"Each party shall refrain from sending to, or maintaining in the disputed territory ... any personnel, whether civilian, police or security," said judge president Hisashi Owada of the International Court of Justice.

He was handing down judgment in a request by Costa Rica for urgent, provisional measures while awaiting the court's final judgment in a long-running dispute with its neighbour over dredging of the San Juan river.

"Each party shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the court or make it more difficult to resolve," said Owada.

In public hearings in January, Costa Rica had warned of a "serious aggravation" in a territorial dispute with Nicaragua, accusing it of "provocation" in a contested border area.

It claimed Nicaraguan troops were illegally occupying an area of three square kilometres (1.16 square miles) in its northeast in a move that "endangers stability and peace between two brother countries".

San Jose asked the ICJ to give an order preventing its neighbour from stationing any troops or personnel in the contested area, which it said was aimed at enabling the construction of a canal.

It also sought a stop to all canal construction activity, which it claimed would impede the flow of water to its own Colorado River.

Nicaragua had asked the court to dismiss the case, which it said concerned "a swamp of three square kilometres".

© 2011 AFP

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