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UN moves to resolve temple border dispute

The UN's highest court yesterday ordered Thailand and Cambodia to pull their soldiers out of a newly defined demilitarised border zone around an ancient temple and to revive talks to resolve the decades-old conflict.

Thailand said it would honour the ruling and Cambodia said it looked forward to the cessation of hostilities. Tens of thousands of villagers on both sides have been relocated and 18 people have been killed in fighting between the two countries since February.

In defining the disputed area around the Preah Vihear temple a demilitarised zone in a legally binding ruling by 11 votes to five, the International Court of Justice said the situation on the border remained unstable.

Both Cambodia and Thailand lay claim to the 900-year-old temple, a Unesco World Heritage site, and the land surrounding it. Sovereignty has been in dispute since the French withdrew from Cambodia in the 1950s. The temple was awarded to Cambodia in a ruling in 1962 but that did not cover the surrounding area.