World court sets Ukraine, Romania Black Sea border

15:31, 03 February 2009
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To settle a dispute over parts of the Black Sea

The International Court of Justice drew a new maritime border between Romania and Ukraine on Tuesday to settle a dispute over parts of the Black Sea believed to hold significant oil and gas reserves.

At stake are exploration and drilling rights in a 12,000 sq km (4,600 sq mile) area which Romania says may contain reserves of more than 100 billion cubic metres of natural gas and more than 10 million tonnes of crude.

The unanimous decision by the court`s 15 judges, which both parties agreed in advance would be binding, ends a long-running dispute that began more than a decade ago and was submitted to the court in 2004.

Romania had claimed a border extending into the northern part of the Black Sea, excluding an area surrounding Ukraine`s Serpent Island or Snake Island, as the rock formation located 40 km (25 miles) offshore is known.

Ukraine had claimed a border closer to the western coast of the Black Sea, saying that Serpent Island gave it territorial rights over the waters.

The ruling gives Romania about four-fifths of the area it claimed, said Bogdan Aurescu, Romania`s agent on the case.

The new border takes into account a small 12 nautical mile section of the arc surrounding Serpent Island, and then splits the maritime border between Romania`s 248 km (155 mile)-long coast and Ukraine`s 705 km (440 mile) coast.

`The decision is a wise compromise and both parties will abide by the decision,` Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Kupchyshyn told reporters.

As part of its judgment, the court also determined that Serpent Island could be considered an island, rather than just a rocky outcrop.

Ukraine argues that Serpent Island -- about the size of 20 soccer pitches -- is an inhabited, economically active island where around 100 people including military personnel, lighthouse keepers and scientists live with their families.

Romania says that Ukraine has only developed activity on the islet with the court ruling in mind, and that it is really an uninhabited rock.

Reuters via Forbes

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