Discussions for the joint monitoring of the River Uruguay with Argentina are “not blocked” and “we have a very strong commitment with the on-going negotiations” said Uruguayan Foreign Affairs minister Luis Almagro following Monday morning’s ministerial cabinet meeting headed by President Jose Mujica.
Uruguay and Argentina are negotiating the terms and conditions for the monitoring of the shared waters of the river where the Uruguayan pulp mill UPM/Botnia operates and which is at the heart of a dispute, allegedly because of the contamination risks.
“Negotiations are not blocked and Argentina currently has the Uruguayan proposal for the monitoring under consideration. We are in a reflection period and we are working for the proposals’ convergence, probably sometime late this week”, said Almagro.
From Buenos Aires Foreign Affairs minister Hector Timerman reiterated that solving the pulp mill issue with Uruguay is a “priority” and added that “I will always have time to mend relations with Uruguay. It is a priority for both countries”.
The Uruguayan official did not reveal details of the “negotiation process” although he emphasized that both sides have agreed that “science and only science will be responsible for the monitoring”.
Furthermore, “who goes into the (Botnia/UPM) plant for the monitoring and who doesn’t is out of the question”.
Almagro insisted that Uruguay will never shut down negotiations “and we are going to look for a definitive solution; that’s our objective and all our efforts are directed to that goal”.
Last Wednesday when Uruguay presented Argentina with its monitoring proposal both sides agreed on a 48 hour ‘reflection period’ but on Friday there was no meeting at ministerial level (Almagro-Timerman) as was anticipated, and over the weekend both sides publicly exchanged non converging statements about the negotiations.
However on Monday statements were back on course and the international agenda of Almagro and Timerman (Unasur ministerial meeting in Ecuador and Mercosur summit in Argentina) should give them the opportunity to address the issue away from domestic pressure in Montevideo and Buenos Aires.