Chile explores Bolivian access to Pacific, dismisses Peruvian concerns

By: MICHAEL WARREN
Associated Press
09/01/09 3:50 PM PDT

BARILOCHE, ARGENTINA — Landlocked Bolivia’s effort to regain the Pacific coastline it lost in a war with Chile more than a century ago will come up again Friday on the sidelines of the South American presidents’ summit.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Chile’s Michelle Bachelet plan a bilateral meeting on coastal access that the two presidents say will also cover water resources, economic integration, security and defense.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia was not invited and warned his neighbors against making some sort of “under the table” deal that leaves Peru out of a resolution. Both Bolivia and Chile denied having resolved the long-standing dispute.

Chilean foreign minister Mariano Fernandez called Garcia’s concerns unhelpful nostalgia, saying that Peru has stymied progress by asking the International Court of Justice to give Peru rights to offshore fishing grounds now under Chilean jurisdiction.

But there is little hope anyway for resolution on the border complaints, which stir nationalist passions in all three countries.

Peru and Bolivia waged a joint war against Chile from 1879-1884 and lost badly, with Chile seizing a chunk of southern Peru as well as Bolivia’s coastline.

Chile has long held that all border questions were resolved by several 20th century treaties. But it could use Bolivian gas to meet its energy needs and would like to improve relations with its neighbors.

Peru derailed a plan decades ago to give Bolivia a slice of northernmost Chile, providing a narrow corridor to the sea along Peru’s southern border. So Chile’s current proposal is to give Bolivia access farther south. But rather than slicing Chile apart with a swath of Bolivia, the offer is access without sovereign rights, an idea Bolivia has rejected.

With Chile’s presidential election coming in December, prospects are dim for a final resolution, even if Bachelet and Morales do agree on the terms.

Source: Associated Press

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