The Uruguayan government rejected on Wednesday Argentina’s ultimatum referred to the UPM (former Botnia) pulp mill production expansion, and doubled the bet by proposing a reform of the shared River Uruguay Statute to increase environmental impact standards but also include both margins of the waterway.
On Tuesday Foreign minister Hector Timerman set an ultimatum calling on Uruguayan president Jose Mujica to ‘immediately’ roll back the UPM pulp mill production expansion authorization, otherwise “Argentina would be forced to again appeal to the International Court of Justice in The Hague”.
The several pages letter sent by Uruguay’s Foreign minister Luis Almagro to Timerman accuses Argentina of ‘pre-judging’ and ‘putting obstacles”, and strongly defends the decision to authorize the UPM production expansion detailing extensively the different steps taken by Uruguay in compliance with the River Uruguay statute, The Hague Court ruling, and ‘courteously’ keeping Argentina notified all along the process.
“Uruguay all along has acted in conformity with its international obligations, both referred to the River Uruguay statute” as with “the ruling from the International Court of Justice” from April 2010, points out the letter.
Likewise Uruguay emphatically affirms that the result from the environmental impact “joint monitoring unambiguously shows that the UPM plant does not contaminate” and complies with all the environmental standards agreed.
Uruguay also accuses Argentina of using the reiterated ‘data requests’ instrument as a “practice that denaturalizes a mechanism which was created specifically for consultation and exchange of information”, and which accordingly “is not acceptable”.
“The Argentine delegation before CARU (Administrative Commission of the River Uruguay) has continued with successive requests of information with the only effect of setting obstacles to the compliance with the different deadlines contemplated in the above mentioned norms”.
Nevertheless Uruguay reiterates its willingness to continue negotiations to reach a new norms framework for the joint management of the shared River Uruguay “which satisfies the common interest of preserving the environmental quality of the River Uruguay”.
Uruguayan minister Almagro then reveals that last October first he presented Timerman with “an ambitious and constructive proposal” to improve the River Uruguay Statute and with greater environmental controls, including the mouth of the river Gualeguaychú (on the Argentine side opposite to the UPM plant).
“This initiative not only reflects the good faith and good willingness of Uruguay to continue negotiations” but also provides “a concrete basis to reach the highest possible standards for the protection of the river”.
In early October Uruguay authorized the UPM pulp plant to increase its annual production by 100.000 tons, (to 1.2 million tons) conditioned to some further environmental demands. Nevertheless Argentina’s reaction although expected was particularly condemning.
However Uruguay believes Argentina finally won’t take the case to the International Court of Justice, but if it does “we are confident that reason is on our side” according to Deputy Foreign minister Luis Porto.
“Whatever the path chosen, we are confident. We continue open to talks; we have made a proposal but received no reply yet. As a small country we keep strictly to international law and dialogue”, underlined Porto.