Landlocked Bolivia sued neighboring Chile on Wednesday in the Hague before the International Court of Justice as it pressed a longstanding claim to recover land lost in a 19th century war and thus regain access to the sea.<br />
Chile quickly responded that the issue was not negotiable.
Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca filed papers at the International Court, saying the suit assumes the historical mandate of the Bolivian people to revert to being a maritime nation.
Bolivia has been preparing its legal, historical and economic arguments for the lawsuit for more than two years.
In a war fought with Chile in 1879, Bolivia lost nearly 400 kilometers of coastline and 120,000 square kilometers of land. For years Bolivia has been pressing Chile to grant it a useful and sovereign outlet to the sea.
Chile, Bolivia's neighbor to the southeast, has refused. It says a peace and friendship treaty signed by the two countries in 1904 established their common borders.
Choquehuanca, speaking from The Hague, said the suit demands that Chile negotiate in good faith with Bolivia a swift and effective agreement that grants it fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean.
Chilean Interior Minister Andres Chadwick later told reporters that if they want to talk about Chile's maritime sovereignty, no. No dialogue is possible.
Bolivia says the 1904 agreement is not valid because it was signed under pressure from Chile.
The two countries have tried for years but failed to reach agreement on their territorial dispute.
In 2006 President Evo Morales opened up a channel of direct dialogue with his then Chilean counterpart Michelle Bachelet, but it led nowhere.
Morales last 20 March said that his country’s case will claim pending obligations subscribed during several negotiation discussions with Chile. The alleged promises are interpreted in the framework of ‘expectation law’, and Bolivia’s access to the sea.
The historic events that sustain the expectations theory are the discussions with Chilean president Gabriel Gonzalo Videla starting in 1948; OAS resolutions signed by Chile; discussions between Augusto Pinochet and Hugo Banzer formalized in the “Charaña Embrace” in 1975 and the “13 point agenda” under the administration of President Bachelet.
Bolivia was once a maritime nation and never accepted the loss of its access to the Pacific and still has a navy and holds a Day of the Sea celebration every year on March 23. Thousands of people march through the streets of La Paz carrying model ships and pictures of the ocean. The Bolivian navy, which has no sea on which to sail, turns out in full uniform.