Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Uruguay, Argentina Move Forward on River Dispute

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In a meeting on Wednesday between President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina and her Uruguayan counterpart, José Mujica, the two countries agreed to jointly monitor and manage the water quality of the Río Uruguay, a river they share.

The decision brings a four-year dispute over a pulp mill built on the Uruguayan side of the river closer to resolution. In April, the International Court of Justice ruled against Argentina, stating that Uruguay did not substantively violate environmental obligations under a 1975 treaty governing the use of the river. Argentina argued that the mill added to water pollution, a claim that Uruguay and the builder of the factory, Botnia, disputed.

The April court decision also noted that Argentina and Uruguay have an obligation to “continue their cooperation” to promote equitable use of the river and environmental protection, an obligation reflected in Wednesday’s agreement. The two countries announced a 60-day timeline to collaboratively establish the monitoring system.

It remains to be seen what will happen with the Argentine protestors who continue to blockade a bridge across the river. Mujica called on the Argentine government to take action, saying “Uruguay is not going to end the pickets . . . Argentina, its government and its people, must resolve it themselves.” Fernández de Kirchner also voiced her opposition to the protests but left the question of resolution unanswered.  In an interview with Radio 10, Argentine Minister of Interior Florencio Randazzo said only that the government would comply if the courts ordered that the picketers be removed.

The wide-ranging meeting also led to bilateral agreements on trade, energy, health, education, and cooperation on security issues.

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