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ICJ rules for Romania in underwater oil reserves dispute with Ukraine

[JURIST] The International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website; JURIST news archive] resolved a long-standing dispute [ICJ materials] between Ukraine and Romania Tuesday by drawing a new maritime border [judgment, PDF] between the countries, giving Romania four-fifths of waters believed to sit atop a sizable crude oil reserve. At issue was whether Ukraine's claim to Serpent Island - a small, X-shaped limestone formation - gave it territorial rights over the surrounding waters. The court's 15 judges unanimously approved the new boundaries. Romanian President Traian Basescu praised [HotNews report] the court's ruling, calling it a victory for Romania's Foreign Affairs Ministry. The Ukrainian presidential secretariat said the decision was a positive step [Kyiv Post report] toward cooperation between the two states. The decision is final and cannot be appealed.

Romania initially filed suit in the ICJ [JURIST report] in 2004 after years of unsuccessful attempts to resolve the matter diplomatically. The ICJ began hearing the case [JURIST report] in September 2008, in which Romania argued Ukraine's claims to Serpent Island were illegitimate, as it inherited the territory from the Soviet Union, which annexed it illegally. Ukraine contended the island is currently occupied by military personnel and scientists, although Romania claimed the activity recent and an attempt to influence the court's decision. Tuesday's decision may be seen as a step toward energy independence for Ukraine, which has recently been in a dispute [BBC profile] with Russia over gas supplies.

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