A Qatari newspaper on Friday slammed Bahrain for placing troops on alert on the disputed Hawar islands, currently subject of the longest legal bout in the history of the World Court in The Hague.
"The fact that Bahrain tells the World Court it has placed troops on a state of alert on the Hawar islands in the fear that Qatar is trying to occupy them is very surprising and in no way helps their arguments," Al-Sharq paper said.
"It's an attempt (by Manama) to change the direction of the case and distance it from the due process adopted by international justice," charged Al-Sharq, considered close to the Qatari government.
Bahrain's representative Jawad Salem al-Arrayed told the World Court Thursday that Bahrain had to reinforce its presence on the Hawar islands to prevent their occupation by Qatar.
"If we did not strengthen our presence on the Hawar islands, there is no doubt Qatar would have occupied them," Arrayed said. "Our readiness on the Hawar islands is high."
The dispute focused on Doha's claim to the Hawar islands and Fasht al-Dibel rocks, potentially rich in oil and gas reserves and held by Bahrain since the 1930s, and Manama's claim to the Zubara strip on Qatar's coast.
Oral arguments between the two sides were scheduled to take five weeks, with a judgment expected in four to six months, in a case first taken to the International Court of Justice in The Hague on July 8, 1991.
The row dates back to 1939, when Britain granted the Bahraini archipelago ownership of small islands including the Hawar, which Manama has been turning into a tourism resort. Qatar, a peninsula, has long contested the British decision.
The dispute almost degenerated into armed conflict in 1986, but King Fahd of Saudi Arabia stepped in to contain the crisis. The United Arab Emirates tried in vain to mediate an accord, and a last-ditch effort to reach an amicable settlement failed.
The two countries did agree to exchange ambassadors and start flights to Manama by Qatar's national carrier, but plans to build a causeway between the two states were put on hold – DOHA (AFP)
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