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Montevideo, March 23rd 2023 - 13:52 UTC



Argentina/Uruguay pulp mills dispute remains “unchanged”

Wednesday, April 11th 2007 - 21:00 UTC
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Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez currently visiting Chile said that the pulp mills conflict with Argentina remains “unchanged” as far as Uruguay is concerned because “we won't negotiate until the bridges blockades are definitively lifted”.

Uruguay and Argentina are in the middle of an escalating dispute over the construction of a pulp mill on the shared and jointly managed river Uruguay which Buenos Aires alleges will contaminate. Uruguay supported with environmental assessments from the World Bank that is partially funding the project rejects the claim. However residents from Gualeguaychu, just across from Fray Bentos where the 1.2 billion US dollars project is under construction, together with environmentalist groups have been blocking access to Uruguay demanding the Botnia-Orion plant be relocated. Argentine authorities refuse to use force against the pickets that have been interrupting the movement of people and goods across three bridges linking the neighboring countries. Uruguay claims this has caused great damage to its economy. Vazquez recalled that during a meeting in 2005 with Argentine officials in Buenos Aires, "our neighbors claimed we did not have the technical elements for a scientific assessment of a possible contamination of the river Uruguay by the pulp mills under construction". "We then offered to establish a joint environmental research lab, state of the art equipped, to monitor the possible pollution of the soil, air and fluvial waters; a lab which could also become a reference for the industry in Mercosur and associate members". However Vazquez underlined that a few weeks ago Uruguay named a committee for the environmental monitoring of the Botnia-Orion pulp mill and invited Argentina to join, "as had been advanced, but those seats remain empty". The dispute has been taken to the International Court of The Hague and to the Mercosur Disputes Tribunal and next week representatives from both countries will be meeting in Madrid, under the auspices of the King of Spain. The Spanish Crown has been involved in a "dialogue facilitating" effort, but positions seem as distant as ever: Uruguay will not negotiate until bridges are reopened and Argentina basically insists on the relocation of the plant or the suspension of construction for ninety days. On the other hand time is running short because Finland's Botnia has announced that following successful water trials, the plant should begin production in the last quarter of this year. This happens to coincide with Argentina's presidential election, next October, which is particularly irritating for President Nestor Kirchner reelection plans.

Categories: Politics, Argentina.

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