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Cristina downplays conflict with Uruguay to “one difference”

Monday, December 10th 2007 - 20:00 UTC
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Pte. Vazquez (center) listens Ms. Kirchner promise she will not escalate the pulp mill conflict Pte. Vazquez (center) listens Ms. Kirchner promise she will not escalate the pulp mill conflict

Incoming Argentina president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner promised that during her term “differences” with neighboring Uruguay “will not deepen” but insisted that Uruguay was to blame for the dispute over the construction of a pulp mill on the shores of a jointly managed river.

"From this president there will never be a single gesture that deepens our current difference", said Cristina Kirchner during her inaugural speech on Monday afternoon to Congress after having been sworn in as Argentina's first elected woman president. "We feel Uruguayans, and will always feel them as our brothers; let there be no doubt about this", underlined Mrs. Kirchner looking towards Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez who was sitting in a first row among foreign leaders next to Chile's Michelle Bachelet and Colombia's Alvaro Uribe. But the pulp mill conflict "can't be imputed" on Argentina because Uruguay "has violated the River Uruguay Treaty". The agreement dates back to 1975 and set common rules and consultation procedures for environment issues and mainly water management. Argentina claims Uruguay never informed her about the construction of pulp mills along the river. Uruguay denies the charges and the case was taken by Argentina to the International Court of The Hague. However, in a conciliatory tone the incoming Argentine president said that as countries that abide by the rule of the law "we must give governance to the conflicting situation, until the agreed body contemplated in the River Uruguay Treaty" rules on the issue. "This and non other is the conflict. Relocating it requires calm from all of us. It doesn't mean deepening differences, but rather knowing which the difference is" she underlined. However Mrs. Kirchner did not say a word about the Argentine pickets that, for over two years, have been protesting against the pulp mill and blocking access to bridges leading to Uruguay, causing considerable losses to the Uruguayan economy. The dispute has soured Argentine-Uruguayan diplomatic relations and personal links between President Vazquez and former president Nestor Kirchner. A ruling from the International Court can't be expected until early 2009. On this background President Vazquez, with a minimum delegation of three, limited his Buenos Aires incursion to Mrs. Kirchner's taking office ceremony in Congress and returned to Uruguay immediately after the event, three hours later. He missed the swearing in of Mrs. Kirchner's cabinet in the Presidential Palace, Casa Rosada, and a music and festival show that followed in the adjoining streets. Vazquez was also absent from the gala dinner hosted Sunday evening by outgoing president Nestor Kirchner to visiting leaders and dignitaries, and was represented by the Uruguayan ambassador in Buenos Aires, Francisco Bustillo. However before leaving Vazquez signed the founding charter of the Bank of the South, which was formally launched by six South American presidents on Sunday. Alberto Fernandez the powerful cabinet chief who was confirmed in the new Argentine cabinet said that in spite of the current situation and existing difference, he celebrated the presence of President Vazquez to the swearing in ceremony. "The truth is I celebrate he came. It would have been worse if he hadn't come", declared Fernandez to the media following the Casa Rosada ceremony. Anyhow President Cristina Kirchner and Fernandez will again have a chance to meet President Vazquez when he hosts the Mercosur presidential summit in Montevideo in a week's time. In Montevideo Argentina will receive the Mercosur six month rotating chair from Uruguay until July 2008.

Categories: Politics, Argentina.

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