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Viewing cable 09SANJOSE619, COSTA RICA SATISFIED WITH ICJ'S SAN JUAN RIVER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09SANJOSE619 2009-07-24 16:04 2011-03-08 16:04 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY 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
VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0619/01 2051629
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 241629Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1060
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHMU/AMEMBASSY MANAGUA 5726
UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000619 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV KDEM IO PREL NU CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA SATISFIED WITH ICJ'S SAN JUAN RIVER 
RULING 
 
REF: WHA ASDAR 7/13/09 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: Per Ref, on July 13 the International Court 
of Justice (ICJ) ruled on Costa Rica and Nicaragua's 
long-running dispute over navigation rights on the San Juan 
River, which serves as part of the northern border between 
the two countries.  The ICJ's balanced ruling essentially 
gave Costa Rica commercial/economic rights and Nicaragua 
control over security issues on the river.  Costa Rican 
officials expressed both public and private satisfaction with 
the ruling, which they viewed as favoring Costa Rica on all 
"the important points."  End Summary. 
 
2. (SBU) Among other points, the ICJ affirmed Costa Rican 
commercial, transportation and tourist access to the San 
Juan, and rejected Nicaragua's ability to require visas or 
tourist cards from Costa Rican river-goers.  In addition, the 
ICJ upheld Costa Rica's right to use official vessels in 
limited capacities, presumed to include medical and 
humanitarian purposes.  The ICJ, however, ruled that Costa 
Rica could not use the river to transport security officials, 
even if unarmed; that Nicaragua has the right to regulate 
river traffic; that Costa Rican vessels must stop at 
Nicaraguan posts at the beginning and end of their voyage; 
and that Nicaragua may require that masted-vessels sail under 
a Nicaraguan flag.  The GOCR has three police outposts at 
various points along the San Juan, which had exchanged 
officers and conducted communication via river travel prior 
to the dispute. 
 
3. (SBU) The GOCR roundly claimed the ruling as a victory, 
publicly pointing out that the ICJ had ruled in their favor 
on seven out of nine issues that the GOCR had presented. 
Arnoldo Brenes, the MFA's point man on the San Juan dispute 
over the past nine years, admitted to us that he was 
initially disappointed that Costa Rica's ability to move 
police officers along the river was not upheld.   However, 
Brenes said that if the police navigation issue had not gone 
in favor of Nicaragua, the ICJ would have run the risk of 
Nicaragua rejecting the ruling altogether.  Brenes believed 
that the GON had heightened the expectations of the 
Nicaraguan people as to what to expect out of the ruling, to 
the point that if they "would not have won anything," the GON 
would have had problems.  Brenes added that the police 
navigation issue, in the end, was not actually critical to 
Costa Rica as they had developed alternate methods of 
reinforcement and communication between their outposts over 
the past ten years.  In this respect, Brenes said that they 
were "very pleased" with the ruling, as the GOCR's real focus 
was on securing commercial rights to the river, which were 
granted by the ICJ. 
 
4. (SBU) The next step is for the two countries to begin a 
dialogue on how to actually implement the ruling.  Brenes 
said they hoped to begin to discuss a number of the issues 
the ICJ resolved over the coming weeks.  These include the 
end of Nicaraguan embarkation fees, the potential 
establishment of Nicaraguan time-tables for river navigation, 
and the extent and manner in which Nicaraguan patrols may 
board Costa Rican vessels on the river. While Brenes said 
that negotiations with the Nicaraguans were always difficult, 
he hoped the implementation of the ruling would be 
accomplished in the short-term. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
5. (SBU) The (hopefully) final settlement of the San Juan 
River issue has been a long time in the making.  This 
particular dispute goes back at least until 1998, when 
Nicaraguan authorities began restricting Costa Rican 
movements along the river.  By giving each side the issue 
that was most important to it, the ICJ's decision made it 
possible that both countries would actually abide by their 
ruling.  Additionally it opens up possibilities of increased 
cooperation on law enforcement issues in the area.  In fact, 
Costa Rican and Nicaraguan counterparts have already begun 
informally discuss, at very low levels, the possibility of 
using Costa Rican "shipriders" on board Nicaraguan patrol 
boats when stopping Costa Rican vessels. 
 
6. (SBU) Though Costa Rica and Nicaragua might finally be 
able to put the San Juan issue behind them, there remain a 
number of differences between the two countries on issues as 
diverse as immigration, trade, security and regional politics 
(highlighted by Nicaragua's recent attempt at blocking Costa 
Rican presidency of the Systema por Integracion y Cooperacion 
 
de Centro America - SICA). Given the vast differences between 
the two countries and their governments, there are few signs 
that relations between the two neighbors will improve any 
time soon. 
 
BRENNAN