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Croatia to pull out of border dispute arbitration with Slovenia

The Croatian government has said it plans to back out of an arbitration panel created to resolved a long-running border row with Slovenia. A Slovenian judge has allegedly broken the tribunal's impartiality rules.

Croatia's prime minister, Zoran Milanovic, made the announcement on Monday after allegations emerged that a Slovenian member of the panel tried to undermine the proceedings' impartiality.

"The process has been contaminated...Croatia cannot stay in this arbitration. It has to quit," Milanovic said to the press, after a meeting with opposition, stressing that the parties that the decision was a bipartisan one.

The decision to back out of the arbitration was supported by parliament, which is set to convene over the issue on Wednesday. The prime minister said he expected "large support" with "hopefully unanimous" sentiments.

Last week the Croatian newspaper "Vecernji" leaked tapped phone calls where Jernej Sekolec, the Slovenian representative to the EU-backed arbitration panel, spoke with Simona Drenik, Ljubljana's intermediary dealing with the case, about how to secure a favorable ruling for Slovenia.

In 2009, the two former Yugoslav states agreed to a deal wherein the five-member tribunal would reach a binding decision on five square miles (13 square kilometers) of mostly uninhabited land and coastline, including Piran Bay (pictured above) on the northern Adriatic Sea. Both countries were asked to propose one member for the panel and a key element of impartiality was that no member discuss the tribunal's work with their government.

Slovenia has only 29 miles (46 kilometers) of coastline and argues that its access to international waters hangs in the balance as Croatia, with its 1,050 miles of coastline seeks to draw the border right through the middle of the disputed bay.

The tribunal had announced earlier this month that it would reach a decision by December. Sekolec and Drenik have both since resigned over the scandal.

es/kms (AP, AFP)