Uruguay and Argentina are set to resume talks over the pulp mills controversy towards the end of April in Spain and with King Juan Carlos at the table, according to Argentine diplomatic sources, reports the Buenos Aires press.
"On request from Argentina", the meeting of representatives from the Uruguayan and Argentine governments was postponed from March to April. The expected dialogue is the result of the "facilitating efforts" from Spanish ambassador Juan Antonio Yañez Barnuevo who was committed to the task by the Spanish King on request from both sides. Uruguayan diplomatic sources confirmed the Argentine version and said that "Uruguay will be going to Madrid with the greatest dialogue predisposition" and with the "obvious reservations regarding the route cuts and pickets". Argentine sources added that the route blockade by residents and environmentalists to protest the construction of the Finnish Botnia pulp mill remains the "heart of the matter" for Uruguay. President Tabare Vazquez position has been that no dialogue is possible until the pickets that have been interrupting access and trade with Uruguay are lifted. Argentine grass root groups claim the pulp mill will contaminate air and water, and the Argentine government alleges that Uruguay has violated the 1975 joint administration agreement of the shared river Uruguay where the pulp mill is under construction and will be using the abundant water resource. Furthermore the announcement by the assemblies from each of the three Argentine cities and bridge heads (Gualeguaychu, Colon and Concordia) that they will blockade the three bridges across the river during Easter was received with irritation by the Vazquez administration. "There's a wing of the Uruguayan government that is against going to Madrid to dialogue with Argentina while the blockades are on, but the Foreign Affairs ministry line has been that dialogue does not mean negotiations", point out Argentine sources. Uruguay still recalls President Nestor Kirchner's address to Congress when the opening of the 2007 legislature and he argued that "abiding does not mean negotiation" which was interpreted as a reply to Montevideo's rigid stance of no negotiations with blocked bridges. In all meetings with Argentine officials and other diplomats Uruguay complains bitterly that the long established pickets "have caused great losses to the country's economy". Meantime the Botnia pulp mill continues to advance and has already done the first hydraulic tests plus ratifying the plant will be officially opened and in production sometime in the fourth quarter of this year. Investment in the Botnia Orion pulp mill is estimated in 1.4 billion US dollars and when in full production should be manufacturing a million tons of pulp annually. The Finland government attitude has been that they can't legally intervene or interfere in the dispute since it involves a private company.