The presidents of both Colombia and Nicaragua [BBC profiles] on Saturday expressed hope for avoiding war and using dialogue to resolve a territorial and maritime dispute following a recent ruling [text, PDF] on the issue by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website]. The ICJ ended the dispute between the two nations by ruling that Colombia has sovereignty [JURIST report] over a group of small islands in the western Caribbean, while Nicaragua has control over a large amount of the surrounding sea and seabed. Following the ruling Colombia withdrew [Reuters report] from the treaty [text] binding the country to the ICJ's decisions. Both countries have placed warships in the disputed waters. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega stated that his country is discarding the use of force as an option and would use communication to achieve peace. Colombia's Juan Manuel Santos stated that war is a last resort, and the way to fix the situation is through dialogue. Santos also stated that Colombia would seek to overturn the decision. Colombians have been protesting the ruling, staging nationwide marches.
In its ruling the ICJ decided unanimously [press release, PDF] that Colombia had sovereignty "over the islands at Alburquerque, Bajo Nuevo, East-Southeast Cays, Quitasueno, Roncador, Serrana and Serranilla." The court recognized that the boundary lines they appropriated effectively divided the relevant in Nicaragua's favor, but found that the results were not disproportionate enough to create inequity. Nicaragua originally brought legal action against Colombia in December 2001, claiming that Colombia had no legal control of the islands. Public hearings were finally held between April and May of this year. A portion of Nicaragua's argument was rejected in 2007, when the ICJ upheld a 1928 treaty between Nicaragua and Colombia [JURIST report] establishing that Colombia owned the islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina.