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Montevideo, June 2nd 2023 - 01:49 UTC



Pulp mills dispute: open dialogue but polite disagreement

Wednesday, May 30th 2007 - 21:00 UTC
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Botnia - Orion ready to begin production Botnia - Orion ready to begin production

The second day of Argentine/Uruguayan talks to try to unlock the dispute over the construction of a pulp mill in Uruguay ended as it begun, with each side asserting its position and the commitment to a next meeting in the framework of an “open dialogue” atmosphere.

The two days "dialogue facilitating" meeting sponsored by the Spanish Crown and held in the seat of the Spanish delegation to United Nations in New York was at "technical" level, following on the agreement reached two months ago in Madrid when the rules and agenda for discussions were established. However in spite of the nice words and conciliatory release following the meeting, Argentina insisted on discussing the relocation of the Botnia/Orion pulp mill, an issue rejected by Uruguay which insists on an end to the Argentine pickets that impede the free movement of people and goods across the bridges linking both countries and are causing considerable damage to the economy. "In an atmosphere of renewed mutual respect, sincerity and cordiality, the two delegations have proceeded to a first exchange of opinions with the purpose of obtaining a more in depth and updated knowledge of the respective positions", reads the communiqué. Meetings were behind doors with UN Spanish Ambassador Juan Antonio Yañez Barnuevo acting as the "dialogue facilitator" and according to the release, following on the spirit and agenda of the Declaration of Madrid. In particular the discussion focused "on issues of group A (relevant to the Orion project, including its relocation and other relevant points)", as well as those in "groups B (issues related to the circulation along routes and bridges linking both countries) and D (issues relevant to the environmental protection of the River Uruguay and the promotion of sustainable development in their areas of influence)". Both sides coincided in underlining that the quality of life of the communities on both sides of the river Uruguay is for both governments "an essential asset to preserve and improve". They also coincided on the importance of the 1975 River Uruguay statute, as a basic instrument to promote good neighborly relations, cooperation between both countries in the zone and safeguarding the environmental quality of the river Uruguay and its areas of influence. The release ends saying that the next meeting at "technical level" will be held at the place and date to be indicated by the facilitator sometime in the next month. Argentina's head of delegation Ambassador Susana Ruiz Cerutti made it a point to underline that for Buenos Aires the "relocation of the Botnia Orion plant, abiding the River Uruguay statute and protection of the environment" remain crucial. "The point A of the Madrid Declaration, referred to relocation of the plant is the knot on which orbit and originate all other issues", said Ruiz Cerutti. From Montevideo, Uruguay's Foreign Affairs minister insisted that Uruguay remains committed to the Spanish Crown dialogue facilitating efforts because the only solution to the dispute is "political". However reality indicates that the Botnia/Orion plant is in the midst of testing the equipment and production trials, expecting to begin fully operational in the coming months while a numerous delegation of Uruguayan and Argentine media delegations are currently in Finland specially invited to visit the several pulp mills of the company and to appreciate the extreme environment conservation measures with which they comply. They were even invited to meet with the Finnish chapter of Greenpeace that said they support picketers' rights to protest and express themselves, but also questioned the chlorine bleaching process on which the Botnia plant in Uruguay will be working. The Spanish delegation did not make public any date proposal for the next "technical meeting", but as the Argentine political calendar begins rolling towards the October 28 presidential election, it will be hard to see concessions from either side. Meantime the tall chimney of Botnia/Orion could by that time have begun (permanently) puffing.

Categories: Politics, Uruguay.

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