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neep1HAGUE: UN's International Court of Justice begins hearings on Monday in a long-running maritime border dispute between Peru and Chile whose outcome could have repercussions in the region.


Peru first applied in January 2008 for recognition of its rights to a 38,000 square kilometre (15,000 square mile) triangle of the Pacific Ocean currently under the control of Chile, in a move that has caused tensions between the two neighbours.


Peru says the maritime borders are unclear and accuses Chile of appropriating its territory.


The 15 judges at the court, which rules on disputes between nations and whose decisions cannot be appealed, are to hold hearings until December 14, with a ruling not expected before mid-2013 at the earliest.


Peru is set to open its oral arguments on Monday and Chile is to respond starting Thursday.


Bolivia has also said it will send a delegation to the court in The Hague and plans its own lawsuit to try to reclaim its ocean access from Chile.


As tensions ratcheted up ahead of the court proceedings, Chile's President Sebastian Pinera spoke out against "exacerbated nationalism, which poisons the soul of the people".


The two countries have historically had strained relations stemming from the border dispute, which dates from Chile's defeat of Peru in the late 19th century War of the Pacific.


Chile also defeated Bolivia in the 1879-1883 war over territory rich in sodium nitrate, in high demand in Europe at the time for use as a fertiliser.


Bolivia lost its seaport Antofagasta, while Peru lost its southernmost provinces, including Arica, now in far northern Chile.


Peruvian President Ollanta Humala has urged both nations to treat the lawsuit, the decision and future compliance from both countries "as the end point of a dispute between brother countries".


Peru is also claiming another 27,000 square kilometres of water that is considered as high seas governed by neither country.


Chile says the maritime border was settled by treaties in 1952 and 1954 treaties that Peru argues were to regulate fishing, not demarcate the border.


The ICJ last month issued a ruling that redrew Colombia's maritime boundary to favour Nicaragua, prompting Bogota to say it no longer recognises the court's jurisdiction.


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said the country's territorial and marine boundaries should be established through treaties, and not in verdicts handed down by the court.


Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012

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