Both Bahrain, Qatar Proclaim Victory in Court Ruling on Border Dispute
Both Gulf states of Bahrain and Qatar declared victory Friday after the world court divided up the spoils in a long-standing territorial dispute over potentially oil and gas rich areas, said reports.
The two emirates gave their people Saturday off to celebrate the end of a simmering 60-year-old feud which almost led to a war in 1986.
Bahrain’s Emir Sheikh Hamad al-Khalifa was quick to laud the verdict as an "historic victory" in a triumphalist speech on state television.
He declared it was a "glorious day" and said the verdict, which endorsed Bahrain's sovereignty over the Hawar islands, ushered in a "new era of understanding" between Bahrain and Qatar.
The International Court of Justice also attributed Qitat Jarada island to Bahrain, but the Zubara strip, Fasht al-Dibel rocks and Jinan island went to Qatar, said AFP.
Bahrain Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Mubarak and his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Hamed bin Jassem al-Thani embraced in the court while the two nations' leaders heralded better ties in addresses to their nations.
Sheikh Hamed pointed out that it was Qatar which had in fact carried the day.
Doha had won "80-90 percent in terms of square kilometers" of the areas it sought in taking the dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 1991, the foreign minister stressed, said the agency.
"They obtained the Hawar islands but we won four important points," he told a press conference in The Hague where he declared over "the last official border conflict between Gulf Arab countries."
Among the points was Fasht al-Dibel, "which is economically important for Qatar.
The world court also ruled that Qatari shipping had rights of unlimited passage in Bahrain's territorial water separating the Hawar islands from other Bahraini islands.
"We have had enough of 60 divided years of conflict. We have a sincere will to develop our relations with Bahrain," the minister said.
And Bahrain's emir revived calls to build a causeway to link the two states.
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad al-Thani admitted "pain" at the loss of the Hawar islands, which Bahrain long controlled, said AFP, but he found solace in a better future.
"We realize that our sacrifice will not be in vain since it lays the foundation for closer and broader, unblemished relations between Qatar and Bahrain," he said in a televised address.
He stressed that the binding international court ruling would strengthen ties among all Gulf states and inside the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Meanwhile, a report by the Middle East News Line (MENL) said Friday that ruling could decide the future of Gulf defense efforts.
The ruling, said MENL, is regarded as the greatest test in a decade-long effort by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to bolster joint regional defense.
Arab diplomatic sources said the court decision, which cannot be appealed, could result in a boycott by either Bahrain or Qatar of the GCC.
"Someone is going to have to lose in this decision," an Arab diplomat said.
"The question is could this loss lead to a split in the GCC," he said.
According to the news service, tension between Bahrain and Qatar has reduced GCC regional defense efforts, including the completion of a regional defense treaty.
Bahrain grudgingly accepted arbitration from the World Court in 1996, five years after Qatar sought the court's mediation.
Bahrain has since warned it will not cede an inch of its land, but Qatar has repeatedly said it would accept any ICJ verdict.
Within the same context, the Gulf Daily reported that Bahrain’s Emir Sheikh Hamad Al-Khalifa will address the nation on the future of relations between Bahrain and Qatar following the court’s ruling.
On March 2nd, Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad al-Thani played down the conflict on his return from a trip to Manama.
"The two countries have resolved their border conflict. We will wait for the ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, then we will start to strengthen our relations more and more," Sheikh Hamad said at that time.
Sources in Doha told AFP the emir will deliver a speech on Friday after the verdict is delivered.
The binding power of the ICJ is relative, since the court, the principal judiciary organ of the United Nations, has no power to enforce its decisions – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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