The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday attributed the Zubara strip to Qatar and the Hawar islands to Bahrain in a ruling on a long-standing territorial conflict between the two Gulf countries, said reports.
Both claimed the areas that are potentially rich in gas and oil deposits and almost went to war over the dispute in 1986.
The court was expected to rule on a third dispute between the two states over the Fasht al-Dibel rocks later Friday, said AFP.
The row dates back to 1939, when Britain, the colonial power in the region at the time, granted the Bahraini archipelago ownership of the islands including the Hawar, which Manama has plans to turn into a tourism resort, said the agency.
Qatar, a peninsula, has long contested the British decision.
The ruling could decide the future of Gulf defense efforts, reported the Middle East News Line (MENL).
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
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