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Slovenia, Croatia seek end to border dispute

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(LJUBLJANA) - The Slovenian and Croatian foreign ministers will meet on January 10 in Brussels to finalise the creation of an arbitration tribunal to solve a long-standing border row, officials said Wednesday.

Slovenia's foreign ministry said that the meeting between Foreign Minister Samuel Zbogar and his Croatian counterpart Vesna Pusic was proposed by Stefan Fuele, the European Union enlargement commissioner.

"We expect at the meeting we will be presented with a list (of candidates to the arbitration panel) from which we will choose the president and two members," Pusic told journalists in Zagreb.

The two former Yugoslav republics have been squabbling since independence in 1991 over 13 square kilometres (five square miles) of largely uninhabited land and a wedge of territorial water in and around Piran Bay.

Slovenia, with 46 kilometres (29 miles) of coastline, sees its access to international waters at stake because Croatia, whose Adriatic coast stretches for 1,700 kilometres, wants the border to be drawn down the middle of the bay.

The row held up Croatian talks to join the European Union -- Slovenia became a member in 2004 -- for 10 months in 2008. The two governments signed an EU-backed arbitration deal in 2009.

Croatia finally signed an EU accession treaty last month, paving the way for it to join the bloc on July 1, 2013.

Slovenia's parliament appointed last year to the tribunal Jernej Sekolec, a 63-year-old member of the London Court of International Arbitration and former secretary of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

Croatia's member will be 74-year-old international maritime law expert Budislav Vukas.

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