Fri, Mar 25, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Bolivia to turn to world courts in Chile ocean row

AFP, LA PAZ

Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Wednesday that landlocked Bolivia would turn to international courts in a more than 100-year-old dispute with neighbor Chile over access to the Pacific Ocean.

“The struggle for our maritime claim, a struggle which has marked our history for 132 years, must now include another fundamental element: turning to international courts and organizations to ask for a free and sovereign exit to the Pacific Ocean,” Morales at a public event.

“It’s feasible and possible for those international organizations to do justice and repair the damage caused to the countries, without the need to resort to any form of violence,” he added.

His comments implicitly suggested the failure of bilateral negotiations over the decades-old dispute, but he said he would always seek “direct, frank and sincere dialogue with Chile.”

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera slammed the remarks, saying that any appeal to world bodies would be a “serious obstacle” for bilateral relations.

“President Morales’s declarations, including his intention to go to international tribunals and bodies with his territorial and maritime aspirations, is a serious obstacle for relations,” he said.

Such statements “depart from the terms agreed upon in many past meetings between our two governments and jeopardize the accord reached in December between the presidents of Chile and Bolivia to strengthen bilateral relations.”

Bolivia had given a March 23 deadline for Chile to respond to its concerns, under a joint agenda to jump-start negotiations that began in 2006, but have seen no concrete advances.

Chile ignored the deadline, recognizing the issue as part of a dialogue between their deputy foreign ministers. The two countries broke off diplomatic relations in 1978.

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