The United Nations International Court of Justice granted Kenya’s request to postpone a hearing of a territorial dispute with Somalia, less than a week before it was scheduled to begin.
The hearing will now start on Nov. 4 and not Sept. 9 as earlier scheduled, according to the Kenyan attorney-general’s office. Kenya had requested that it be delayed for a year as it recruits a new defense team.
The neighbors claim ownership of an area, almost 150,000 square kilometers (57,915 square miles) off the Indian Ocean coastline, said to be rich with oil, gas and tuna fish. In 2014, Somalia went to court to challenge a 2009 agreement that set its maritime border along latitudinal lines extending 450 nautical miles into the sea.
“We have a strong case,” Somalia’s foreign minister, Ahmed Isse Awad said in an interview before the court postponed the hearing. Previous negotiations by Somalia and Kenya to resolve the matter failed, Awad said.
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council plans to appoint a mediator to help find “an amicable and sustainable settlement, in consultation and collaboration with the relevant regional mechanisms,” according to an emailed statement. Kenya and Somalia should refrain from any action that may threaten the existing good neighborliness, according to the statement.