The Uruguayan government and opposition expressed deep satisfaction with the agreement reached with Argentina for the monitoring of the River Uruguay which did not include ‘detrimental sovereignty issues’ and sealed the end to a long standing conflict.
The agreement announced Wednesday in Buenos Aires by Presidents Jose Mujica and Cristina Kirchner creates a “scientific committee” with experts from both sides in the framework of the Uruguay River Management Commission, CARU, leaving aside the Argentine pretension of an elaborate chapter dedicated to the UPM/Botnia pulp mill (at the heart of the dispute) and which consisted in a standing monitoring system inside the Uruguayan industry.
Each country’s office in environmental affairs will act next to the scientists in each country, under that country’s regulations, and Uruguay accepted the mounting of gas effluent sensors in the zone in spite of the fact that CARU, by statute only refers to the water course.
However the “good chemistry” between President ‘Pepe’ Mujica and Mrs Kirchner was considered crucial in finally sealing the much debated agreement.
Following the return from Buenos Aires of President Mujica and his advisors, Foreign Affairs minister Luis Almagro invited opposition members to his office to inform about the agreement reached and express gratitude for the united support during the long, cumbersome negotiations with Argentina.
The three opposition leaders with representation in parliament praised President Mujica for his determination and expressed satisfaction with the terms of the agreement that puts an end to a diplomatic rift with Argentina of over five years and one of the most serious in the last six decades.
But the opposition leaders also said that with UPM/Botnia out of the way, they were hopeful that the long bilateral agenda of ‘over twenty pending issues’ with Argentina could finally be addressed for which they also anticipated full support.
“Our satisfaction with the way this very difficult negotiation has been addressed and managed and the success achieved. A big stone has been removed, now the way is open to address other equally significant issues”, said Senator Luis Alberto Lacalle head of the main opposition National party.
Opposition junior partner leader from the Colorado party, Pedro Bordaberry underlined the administration of President Mujica “worked very seriously on the issue and kept Parliament informed. He achieved in a few months what was not achieved in the previous five years”.
According to minister Almagro some of the achievements include that the scientific group should have representatives from both countries and that samples on the Uruguayan side would be the responsibility of Uruguay’s Environment Office.
The UPM/Botnia plant, contrary to Argentina’s aspiration will be treated as another of the many industries and locations that straddle the River Uruguay.
Furthermore even when the pulp mill in Fray Bentos will be the first to be monitored this will be followed by similar actions across the river in Gualeguaychú which has a significant industrial compound and effluents are unloaded (and untreated) directly to the river Uruguay.
Uruguayan diplomatic sources said that the “good chemistry” between the two presidents was crucial in wrapping up the agreement when advisors from the Argentine side insisted in concentrating all efforts in the pulp mill.
“At that point Mrs. Kirchner said ‘enough’, made a quick summary of the agreed points and ordered her team to close the agreement with no further delays”, said the sources.
“What really matters, what goes in or what goes out?” said Mujica at one point regarding details of the UPM/Botnia plant monitoring.
Almagro revealed that what was agreed is virtually what is done currently, “very much in context, because UPM/Botnia has nothing to hide and has been supportive all along and very much tuned with the practical terms of what Uruguay needed”.
In a brief comment President Mujica said “we are satisfied; so I think is the Argentine side. But I have to extend my gratitude to the people of Fray Bentos for holding out all these years”. Fray Bentos suffered the direct impact of Argentine pickets blocking the international bridge that links with Gualeguaychú.
“I think this is the end of the picture, this now belongs to the box of souvenirs and memories”, added Mujica.
Mrs. Kirchner said she was pleased that “the answer to a long standing problem has been found, a problem which we had to solve. We always have had a very good chemistry with Mujica”.
With the agreement both presidents also complied with their self imposed 60 days timetable which they announced last June 2, during a meeting in Uruguay.