García: Peru will not be an obstacle to the resolution of Chile and Bolivia’s century-old “outlet to sea” dispute

Bolivia and Chile could finally have reached an agreement to resolve their century-old “outlet to sea” dispute, and Peru will not be an obstacle to the peaceful resolution of this quarrel, said Peru President Alan García on Sunday.

“It seems that an agreement has been reached,” said García in comments to Chilean daily La Tercera. “This would be a good thing. Countries have to engage in dialogue. They can’t go on whining about each other for centuries on end. Such an agreement is the only thing that would explain Bolivia’s courteous and even obsequious attitude with Santiago.”

“Peru won’t be an obstacle to the resolution of this old dispute, about which Bolivia is mostly right,” added García.

Bolivia and Chile’s dispute dates back to the 1879–1883 War of the Pacific, in which Peru and Bolivia lost substantial territory to Chile. Peru’s Tarapaca department and Arica province were annexed to Chile, as well as the Bolivian department of Litoral.

In January 2007, Peru began proceedings against Chile today at the International Court of Justice, ICJ, in The Hague. According to the ICJ, the dispute is related to “the delimitation of the boundary between the maritime zones of the two States in the Pacific Ocean” and the recognition of “a maritime zone lying within 200 nautical miles of Peru’s coast.”

Central to the row is 38,000 square kilometers, or about 14,500 square miles, of fishing-rich sea which Chile currently controls.

Bolivia, which was left landlocked – throttling its export potential – has recently accused Peru of using the proceedings against Chile to short-circuit its own attempts to negotiate a sea outlet.

“I don’t see how The Hague has anything to do with this issue,” said García.

The maritime dispute has also caused considerable tension in the past.

Diplomatic relations between Bolivia and Chile have been at a standstill since 1962, except when both countries were ruled by military dictatorships from 1975 to 1979.

And, in August 2007, Chile recalled its ambassador from Peru after the State-run newspaper, daily El Peruano, published an official map that indicated Peru’s control over the contentious area.

Despite major investments in Peru by Chilean businesses, the relationship between both countries has remained sensitive since the War of the Pacific. The border issue flares up seasonally, many Peruvians harbor a deep suspicion of Chilean intentions, and the Peruvian military is acutely sensitive to any upgrading of Chilean military material.

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