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Nigeria, Cameroon Move to Normalize Relations - 2004-01-31


U.N. Secretary-general Kofi Annan has held a third round of talks with the presidents of Cameroon and Nigeria aimed at settling a long-running border dispute between the two countries. The three leaders who met in Geneva Saturday say they are pleased with the progress being made toward resolving this dispute peacefully.

U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan congratulates both presidents on their leadership and wisdom. He says the progress achieved so far proves that neighboring States can, with a little help from the United Nations, work together to prevent a border conflict and settle their differences peacefully.

"The fact that we live on a continent with lots of problems, when you hear that things are going well, you get nervous and probably do not quite accept it," he said. "But, things are going well and we are going to press ahead. As you have heard, a work program has been established and an essential part of the work is done."

The disputed border area is rich in oil. Tensions between Nigeria and Cameroon over their 1,600-kilometer border erupted into military conflict at the end of 1993. The following year, Cameroon brought the dispute before the International Court of Justice. In 2002, the Court confirmed sovereignty over portions of the territory to Cameroon and delineated the border. Nigeria also made certain land gains.

A mixed Commission composed of representatives from Cameroon, Nigeria and the United Nations was set up to implement the ruling. In December, Nigeria handed over 32 villages in the Lake Chad area to Cameroon which gave Nigeria ownership of one village.

Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo said final settlements still have to be achieved regarding three other areas.

"That is what we call the land area which is between the Lake Chad area and Bakassi and there is the Bakassi and then there is the maritime area," he said. "And, of course, as one area is resolved , whatever needs to move around that area is moved, the line of demarcation takes place."

The Bakassi Peninsula, a swampy bit of land which protrudes into the Gulf of Guinea, is potentially the most contentious issue. Nigerian soldiers are guarding the Peninsula which is believed to be rich in oil. Agreement on handing this prime bit of real estate over to Cameroon has yet to be achieved.

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