Saturday, January 17, 2009

International Court To Rule Feb On Romania-Ukraine Black Sea Oil Dispute

THE HAGUE (AFP)--The U.N.'s highest court said Friday it would rule next month in a decades-long dispute between Romania and Ukraine over a zone of the Black Sea said to contain hydrocarbon deposits. The judgment will be read at a public sitting of the International Court of Justice on Feb. 3, it said in a statement.

The dispute concerns an area of about 12,400 square kilometers and plans by Kiev to create an exclusive economic zone around the small Serpents Island where natural gas and oil deposits are thought to be concentrated. The uninhabited 17-hectare islet has been described as "a tiny little rock" by Romania which owned it until 1948 when it was ceded to the then Soviet Union.

Romanian experts have estimated the area around the island may contain 100 billion cubic meters of gas. Romania instituted proceedings against its neighbor in September 2004 after six years of dedicated bilateral negotiations failed to resolve the matter - a cause of rivalry between the states for decades. A court statement said the hearing, argued before the judges in September last year, concerned "the establishment of a single maritime boundary between the two states in the Black Sea." The ICJ is the highest U.N. court, set up to rule on disputes between states.

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