Uruguayan and Argentine officials are scheduled to continue talks at the end of the month in an effort to defuse the Fray Bentos, Uruguay pulp mill conflict, as a follow up to last month's talks in Madrid after a year without negotiations.
The second round of talks will be held on May 29/30 in New York following on the "dialogue facilitating efforts" of the Spanish Crown last month in Madrid with Spanish envoy Ambassador Juan Antonio Yáñez Barnuevo acting as a moderator. New York's meeting has been described by Spanish Ambassador in UN Yañez Barnuevo as "technical". Last weekend, environmentalists from Argentina's Entre Ríos province blocked a second bridge that links Argentina and Uruguay to protest against the construction of the Botnia pulp mill on the banks on the River Uruguay, and demonstrators also crossed the river and held a demonstration in Uruguay. The plant is being built by Finnish company Botnia but despite the Argentine government objections and environmentalists' protests, test trials have begun with production forecasted for next September/October. Environmentalists expect that this new meeting in New York will allow sides to agree on certain "basic points" that could help resolve the dispute. "Technical talks" will refer to the "location of the plant" as well as "the implementation of the River Uruguay International Treaty (CARU)" which regulates the joint management of the shared border river. Argentina claims that the plant will harm the environment while Uruguay retorts that any contamination will be within the most demanding international standards. The case is in the hands of the The Hague-based International Court of Justice. Argentina claims that Uruguay violated the River Uruguay protocol by allegedly failing to report to it its plans to build the plant. Uruguay on the other hand has refused to hold direct bilateral talks until the blockage by environmentalists of bridges leading to Uruguay ceases and has protested to Mercosur disputes' tribunal about the losses caused to its economy by the protestors. Meantime in Uruguay Botnia announced that trial tests in the pulp mill, which were accomplished to satisfaction in April, will continue this month and neighbours should not be surprised by steam escapes or strange noises caused by the purging of the network of pipes in the plant.