With the decision over ongoing maritime dispute between Chile and Peru just weeks away, government officials on both sides insist relations between them are strong. On Jan. 27 Peru and Chile are set to find out who has legal ownership over 14,500 square miles of fishing waters off their borders, putting an end to a centuries-long dispute and ending a five year international court case.
Since the case was submitted by Peru to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2008, both countries have maintained that they will abide by the court’s decision and that the process has only brought the two governments closer together.
“We have a shared commitment to abide by and enforce the judgment to be rendered by the International Court of Justice that will turn, I am sure, the paradigm of our relationship toward a profitable and enduring one for the future of our peoples,” President Ollanta Humala of Peru said from the United Nations General Assembly in September last year.
Although the Chilean government has made similar statements throughout the process, it is nonetheless taking steps to prepare for the final outcome with joint meetings of economic and foreign relations officials and a slew of past, present and future Chilean presidents.
Chile’s Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno met with the Advisory Council for the Maritime Boundary last week. The group included the Under-secretary of the foreign ministry, Alfonso Silva, and the agents presenting Chile at the ICJ for the case Alberto van Klaveren, María Teresa Infante and Juan Martabit.
“They have given us the information about the stage that is coming, what the decision will mean and, additionally, we have gotten their opinions which are always very valuable,” Moreno said.
The foreign minister is slated to travel north to the areas that will be most impacted by the decision, in the Arica Region, on Jan. 20, a week before the ICJ will announce its ruling. Félix de Vicente, Chille’s economic minister, will travel alongside Moreno to assist in preparations and a comprehensive understanding of the likely effects of the decision.
At the center of the issue are the local fishermen who operate off the coast, who expect 80% of their catch to be threatened by the possible change in fishing boundaries.
Last week, President Sebastián Piñera met with President-elect Michelle Bachelet, with whom his administration is attempting to share the fallout from the pending decision. The case was submitted while Bachelet was in office, though handled under Piñera.
The decision will come before Bachelet assumes office, but she will be responsible for seeing through any agreement made between Jan. 27 and her inauguration in March.
“We made an agreement with the president-elect to maintain what is a tradition in our country, which is unity, the concept of the state in international relations, respect for international law, international treaties and also the respect to the decisions of international courts,” Piñera said after the meeting.
He then convened with an array of former presidents, Ricardo Lagos, Patricio Aylwin and Eduardo Frei on Friday. The current president also sought the counsel of these elder statesmen in relation to the Peru maritime case in November 2012.
Meanwhile, on the northern side of the border, Peru’s government is preparing with a more optimistic fervor. Local politicians in Tacna, about 20 miles from the border, are reported to be organizing large screens to broadcast the verdict and arranging a public holiday.
Peru’s Housing Ministry announced in December plans to build a new settlement just 1,640 feet from the Chilean-Peruvian land border, which both Chile and Peru lauded as a positive step for trade and business between the two countries.
By Charlotte Karrlsson-Willis - The Santiago Times