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Friday, 16 March, 2001, 19:58 GMT
Gulf islands row settled
Map
A territorial dispute dating back to the 1930s between Qatar and Bahrain has been settled by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

hawar
A Bahraini boy kisses a map with the Hawar islands
The court awarded the potentially oil-rich Hawar islands to current owner Bahrain, denying Qatar's claim to the territory.

But judges rejected Bahrain's claim to Zubarah, a disputed town on the Qatari mainland.

The ruling, by the highest United Nations legal body, is final and binding.

The case, which Qatar launched in 1991, is the longest in the court's history. The two nations almost went to war over the dispute in 1986.

Colonial decision

The territorial row dates back to the 1930s, when Britain - which then controlled both countries' foreign affairs - stepped into a bitter row between the ruling families of the Gulf states and decided the Hawar islands belonged to Bahrain.

The UN court upheld that decision.

"The court concludes that the decision taken by the British government on 11 July 1939 is binding on both parties," said the president of the court, Judge Gilbert Guillaume.

"The court concludes that Bahrain has sovereignty over the Hawar islands and that it therefore cannot uphold the submission of Qatar."

Judges ruled that both Qatar and Bahrain had given their consent for Britain to resolve the Hawar dispute in 1939, and so it remained binding on them.

The court awarded control of two minor islands, Janan and Hadd Janan, to Qatar. Qatar has repeatedly said it will accept any verdict by the court.

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See also:

08 Mar 01 | Middle East
Bahrain-Qatar islands ruling looms
06 Nov 00 | Middle East
Emir of Bahrain boycotts Islamic summit
18 Feb 01 | Middle East
Bahrain lifts key security law
17 Feb 01 | Middle East
Behind Bahrain's bold step
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