LIMA, Peru -- A territorial dispute between Chile and Peru ended Monday with an international court awarding Peru a triangle of Pacific Ocean territory covering thousands of square miles rich in fishing and other natural resources.
Peru filed the claim at the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2008, alleging that marine boundaries had never formally been set by the two countries. Chile’s position was that the line had been defined in agreements signed in 1952 and 1954, which Peru argued were strictly fishing accords.
In a 15-1 vote, the court ordered that the common marine border be redrawn so that it will follow the current border for 80 miles from the coast but then will veer southwest for 120 miles, giving Peru the disputed “external triangle.”
The current border runs due west from the coast for a full 200 miles, a demarcation that Chile has enforced since it won a war in the 1880s with Peru and Bolivia.
In a statement issued after the verdict was announced, the Peruvian government said the decision applied to nearly 19,000 square miles of offshore territory, or more than half of the 37,000 square miles it originally sought.
Chile’s delegation said it was disappointed with the ruling but said the court's retention of the current border for the first 80 miles offshore respected the “commercial tranquillity” of Arica, Chile's northernmost big city and an important fishing and port hub.
Peruvian President Ollanta Humala was expected to address the nation later Monday. In an indication of the importance he placed on the dispute, Humala had named former Foreign Minister Allan Wagner to head the delegation at The Hague.
Perhaps in anticipation that Chile would lose some territory, the head of the Chilean delegation, Juan Martabit, the country's ambassador to the Netherlands, told news media on Sunday that the decision shouldn’t be viewed as “triumph or disaster. … The countries have come to court with effective arguments in good faith and inspired by the rule of law.”
Humala invited 260 dignitaries to the presidential palace in Lima to hear the court's decision. Those invited included all members of congress, district governors and mayors.
Experts had considered Peru’s chances of winning the case to be good given recent international court decisions in disputes that gave more weight to modern standards of fairness in the division of offshore territory than to treaties that countries may have signed in the past.
In November 2012, for example, the court awarded Nicaragua 29,000 square miles of Caribbean marine territory that had been under Colombian control for two centuries. The two nations signed a treating fixing the boundaries in 1928, but Nicaragua maintained the pact was signed under the duress of a U.S. military occupation.
Special correspondents Leon and Kraul reported from Lima and Bogota, respectively. Special correspondent Fabiola Gutierrez in Santiago, Chile, contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times