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Chile to tighten ties with Bolivia and Peru

Monday, April 17th 2006 - 21:00 UTC
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Chile is prepared to restore diplomatic relations with Bolivia and sign a free trade accord with Peru regardless of who wins that country's presidential election, the foreign minister said in comments published yesterday.

The five-week-old government of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet also will work to promote regional integration in South America, Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley told the Santiago newspaper El Mercurio.

Chile has historically had strained relations with the two countries, having defeating a Peru-Bolivia alliance in two wars in the 1800s.

Since 1978, Chile has not had diplomatic relations with landlocked Bolivia, which lost its Pacific coast to Chile in the second of those wars and has been seeking to recover it ever since.

Chile and Peru have squabbled often, including wars over a swath of mineral-rich coast and heated rivalries over soccer matches and even the origins of a grape brandy both claim as their national drink.

Foxley said the Bachelet administration hopes to ease tensions with its neighbours. ??We are prepared to sit to negotiate and sign a free trade accord (with Peru) the first Monday after the election, never mind who gets elected,'' Foxley said, referring to Peru's presidential election that is headed to a runoff after no candidate won a majority April 9.

The comment appeared to dismiss concerns expressed by some local politicians that a victory by Ollanta Humala ? a nationalist ex-army officer who led all candidates in the first round and is seen by many here as anti-Chilean ? would damage relations between Chile and Peru.

Humala has said he would change rules governing Chilean investment in Peru, especially in ??strategic sectors'' such as air traffic and port administration. ??What candidates say in an election campaign often changes when one has the responsibility of governing a country,'' Foxley said.

The minister also said the Bachelet government hopes to restore diplomatic relations with Bolivia.

??We are going to deploy all our energy to develop an agenda with Bolivia without exclusions,'' he said. ??A group in our ministry is already preparing specific proposals.''

Categories: Mercosur.

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