The United Nations’ highest court has begun hearings on a maritime boundary dispute between Somalia and Kenya, after years of delays in a case that has strained the neighbours’ diplomatic relations. Scheduled to run until March 24, the public hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague will be held in a “hybrid format” due to the coronavirus pandemic, with some members of the court attending the proceedings in person while others participating remotely via a video link. The dispute between the two East African countries stems from a disagreement over which direction their border extends into the Indian Ocean. Somalia argues its maritime boundary should run in the same direction as the southeasterly path of the country’s land border. In contrast, Kenya claims the border should take a roughly 45-degree turn at the shoreline and run in a latitudinal line. This gives Kenya access to a larger share of the maritime area. Apart from fishing, the disputed area – about 100,000 square kilometres – is thought to be rich in oil and gas, with both countries accusing each other of auctioning off blocks before a ruling by the court.
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