Uruguayan President Jose Mujica and his Argentine peer Cristina Fernández de Kirchner are to meet next Wednesday afternoon in Buenos Aires in what is to be the first encounter after The Hague International Court's ruling on Botnia paper mill was made public Tuesday.
Besides both country leaders, Foreign Ministers Jorge Taiana and Luis Almagro are to attend at the meeting in the Olivos Presidential Residence.
The presidents' meeting is to have an open agenda according to government sources, but will basically implement a common strategy to overcome the long standing diplomatic rift between the neighbouring countries.
The irritating issue of the pickets blocking an international bridge will only be addressed if Argentina brings up the issue, said Uruguayan sources who insisted “we are not going to interfere in Argentine domestic matters”.
The bridge links Argentina with Uruguay and remains closed to the circulation of people and goods since 2006 when the activists took it over.
President José Pepe Mujica when asked about the Court’s judgement said “the only words are silence and there’s much work ahead”.
The Wednesday meeting will also be the first to be held after The Hague International Court of Justice ruled that the Uruguayan government did not respect procedures of the Uruguay River Treaty by installing the Botnia paper mill in front of Gualeguaychú (Entre Ríos province) without consulting.
However the judgement also confirmed that the Botnia plant does not contaminate and keeps to the highest possible standards. Further more the Court denied Argentina compensations and rejected the idea of dismantling the plant as demanded by Buenos Aires and the picketers.
The possibility of a meeting between Cristina and Mujica had been confirmed by both countries' Foreign Ministers who have been talking virtually on a daily basis to agree on a date for the encounter after analyzing their respective presidential agendas.
Taiana had earlier assured he would speak to his Uruguayan counterpart Almagro to see how we can organize the agenda with Uruguay; the former is very wide and has varied issues.
We really value the disposition that President Mujica showed to work in a coordinated manner, said the head of the San Martín Palace, and added, we see it as very positive and we respond to that willingly.
From Montevideo, Uruguayan Foreign Minister Almagro said that the first thing we must do is to coordinate a meeting between the presidents and ministers. We need to set a date and later deal with the selected issues.
Almagro said that the steps to recompose the relationship after The Hague's ruling are being taken.
Cristina Kirchner back from Venezuela said that in the future “no similar pulp mills will be established unless there’s an agreement from both sides”. She added that Argentina and Uruguay would work together on a “strong monitoring and strong control” mechanism to ensure that Botnia does not contaminate.
Finally former Uruguayan president Jorge Batlle said that the Court’s judgement won’t affect bilateral relations with Argentina nor will the pickets.
“Relations between two countries are not done or undone by bridges. How long have we lived without the bridge? There’s no Uruguayan who hasn’t a relative in Argentina. Argentines will continue coming to Uruguay for their holidays and Uruguayans will continue to visit Argentina. Bridges are a necessary accident but don’t worry, people can get across by boat”, said Batlle.
In a more sarcastic comment Batlle said that the Botnia plant had been relocated (one of Argentina’s demands in The Hague), “originally it was to be built on the Argentine side, but God and the Argentines know why the plant ended in Uruguay”. Sometimes “people are too greedy…” remarked the former president under whose administration the investment was started.