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Viewing cable 05SANJOSE2131, COSTA RICA TO ATTEMPT TWO-YEAR STOPGAP ACCORD ON

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05SANJOSE2131 2005-09-12 23:11 2011-03-08 16:04 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy San Jose
Appears in these articles:
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-07/Investigacion/NotasDestacadas/Investigacion2704388.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-07/Investigacion/NotaPrincipal/Investigacion2704402.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-07/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2704436.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-07/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2705536.aspx
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SAN JOSE 002131 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/12/2015 
TAGS: PBTS PREL PINR ETRD CS NU
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA TO ATTEMPT TWO-YEAR STOPGAP ACCORD ON 
BORDER DISPUTE WITH NICARAGUA 
 
REF: SAN JOSE 1746 
 
Classified By: Charge Russell Frisbie for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
Summary 
-------- 
1. (C) As the clock ticks down on a three-year "truce" on the 
San Juan River dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, 
Foreign Minister Roberto Tovar on September 8 told Charge 
that he will propose a new two-year stopgap agreement.  He 
said Costa Rica, however, will demand in the new agreement 
some limited navigational rights on the river that it has not 
been able to exercise under the current truce.  President 
Pacheco, responding off the cuff to a reporter's question on 
August 30, said talks between the GOCR and GON had been 
fruitless and that the GOCR was no longer willing to "kick 
the ball down the road" (postpone dealing with the dispute). 
If the GOCR and GON do not reach an agreement, Costa Rica 
will file an application with the International Court of 
Justice by October 23.  End summary. 
 
Dispute calendar 
---------------- 
2. (U) According to the GOCR, the current version of the San 
Juan River dispute began on July 15, 1998, when the 
Nicaraguan Army started to impede the movement of armed Costa 
Rican police on the river.  This caused then-President of 
Costa Rica Miguel Angel Rodriguez to cancel a scheduled visit 
to Nicaragua.  On March 8, 2000, Costa Rica and Nicaragua 
agreed to OAS mediation of the dispute, but it was clear 
after a month that there would be no accord.  Anticipating 
that Costa Rica would take the matter to the International 
Court of Justice (ICJ), then-President of Nicaragua Arnoldo 
Aleman filed a motion with the ICJ on October 23, 2001, 
claiming that the court lacked jurisdiction over the dispute. 
 Costa Rica had one year to answer the motion or forfeit the 
case.  After months of negotiations, Costa Rican Foreign 
Minister Roberto Tovar and Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Norman 
Caldera on September 26, 2002, signed a three-year truce by 
which the two sides agreed to delay discussion of the 
Nicaraguan motion and that Costa Rica would not attempt to 
bring the case to the ICJ. 
 
Approaching deadline 
-------------------- 
3. (C) The current truce expires September 27, and, unless 
the GOCR and GON arrive at a new agreement, the GOCR has 
until October 23 to file an application with the ICJ 
challenging the GON's motion filed four year before.  Foreign 
Minister Tovar told Charge September 8 that if Costa Rica 
were to fail to respond to Nicaragua's motion in the ICJ, 
Costa Rica would lose its rights.  He said that the GOCR has 
already drafted its ICJ application and will file it if the 
GOCR and GON do not reach agreement by the October 23 
deadline. 
 
President lets slip that negotiations have been fruitless 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
4. (C) President Pacheco, responding to a reporter's question 
on August 30, let slip publicly what MFA advisers Sergio 
Ugalde and Arnoldo Brenes have been telling us privately and 
confidentially--that negotiations with GON have gone nowhere. 
 
SIPDIS 
 The GOCR's goal was to get the GON to agree to arbitration 
of the San Juan River dispute by the ICJ or some other third 
party (reftel).  The GON, however, refused and instead 
proposed an extension of the current truce, which is 
unacceptable to Costa Rica.  President Pacheco reflected 
Costa Ricans' frustration when he told the press: "I thought 
it would have been possible for two friendly countries to 
reach an agreement with both yielding a little bit.  But it 
was not to be."  He added: "We need to solve this matter once 
and for all; we're not going to kick the ball down the road 
(postpone dealing with the dispute) which serves the 
interests of neither side." 
 
Press commentary 
---------------- 
5. (U) Since President Pacheco spoke out while negotiations 
were ongoing, he was criticized in the Costa Rican press for 
being "indiscreet" and "imprudent."  Leading daily newspaper 
"La Nacion," in a September 1 editorial, accused both sides 
of carelessness in dealing with the San Juan issue: 
"Nicaragua's leaders, politicians, and other sectors treat 
(the dispute) according to their whims.  And President 
Pacheco, without warning, has violated the elementary norms 
of maturity, prudence, and wisdom.  Let's hope our Foreign 
Ministry can get us back on track for the sake of our 
national interest." 
 
Tovar's two-year plan 
--------------------- 
6. (C) Having failed to persuade the GON to agree to 
arbitration, the GOCR, Tovar told Charge, will now attempt to 
negotiate a new two-year stopgap agreement.  It is not merely 
kicking the ball down the road because, unlike in the 
existing truce, Costa Rica would insist on acknowledgment of 
some limited navigational rights on the river (presumably to 
include the transportation of armed Costa Rican police). 
Tovar believes such an agreement would save face for both 
sides and obviate threatened trade sanctions between the two 
countries.  He said that an interruption in trade or an 
increase in tariffs would both be antithetical to CAFTA-DR 
and cause bankruptcy for some small- and medium-sized 
enterprises. 
 
Comment 
------- 
7. (C) Pacheco spoke out of turn but also truthfully.  After 
three years of fruitless negotiations on the San Juan 
dispute, it is unrealistic to expect the next few weeks to be 
different.  The GOCR is willing to bend, but only so far.  No 
government, Costa Rican or Nicaraguan, can afford politically 
to "give away" the San Juan River.  For the Costa Ricans, the 
dispute is more about saving face than any practical 
considerations.  In fact, Tovar has told us he doesn't even 
care much whether an arbitrator rules for or against Costa 
Rica, only that the matter is finalized.  The great virtue he 
sees in arbitration is that neither the GOCR nor the GON can 
be accused of giving away territory or the rights of its 
citizens; instead, the losing party can blame the arbitrator. 
FRISBIE