The European Union awarded funds to Chile for mine-clearance operations in the extreme south of the country, announced Chile's Defence minister Jaime Ravinet during the launching of similar operations in the northeast of the country, next to the Argentine border and close to Bolivia.
The EU one million US dollar fund to be granted this year will be complemented with communications equipment donated by Holland for the special teams involved in mine sweeping in the Magallanes Region.
Mr. Ravinet made the announcement in Llullaillaco national park, in the Andes, just across the Argentine border where four fields, strategically located, hold 1.987 antipersonnel mines and 400 anti tank explosives dating back to the late seventies when both countries were in the verge of an armed conflict.
The ceremony was also attended by Bolivia's Defence minister Walker San Miguel Rodríguez; Chief of Staff General Wilfredo Vargas Valdés; Argentina's Defence Deputy minister and Military Affairs Secretary José María Vásquez Ocampo, and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Roberto Fernando Bendini.
"More than an international commitment we're honoring a commitment with our communities, our peoples to build peace, friendship and solidarity among Latinamerican countries", said Minister Ravinet during the ceremony.
He emphasized that Chile's defense policy is based in confidence building with its neighbours and full transparency in complying with the Ottawa Convention for the elimination of mines.
Bolivia's Defence minister Walker San Miguel underlined the significance of the occasion and the beginning of the de-mining operations.
"Firstly we wish to thank Chilean authorities for their invitation, particularly Minister Ravinet. Being present next to Chilean and Argentine authorities and military commanders when de-mining operations begin is highly symbolic and a most encouraging friendship gesture: de-mining to end with the barriers which have kept us disunited for so long".
Argentina's Deputy minister Vasquez said the ceremony was evidence of peace in the region "leading onto the path of cooperation and integration in the region".
Bolivia and Chile don't have formal diplomatic relations since 1979, when the hundredth anniversary of the Pacific war waged between Bolivia and Peru against Chile. Because of the outcome of the war Bolivia ended landlocked and for the last century has insistently claimed from Chile an exit to the Pacific Ocean.
De-mining operations and destruction of the explosives unearthed in north Chile is expected to take eight months.