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Montevideo, September 28th 2023 - 11:04 UTC



Dispute between Chile and Bolivia over Silala settled by ICJ ruling

Friday, December 2nd 2022 - 09:50 UTC
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No victors were proclaimed in the process; Arce and Boric will have to work things out together, ICJ mandated No victors were proclaimed in the process; Arce and Boric will have to work things out together, ICJ mandated

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) Thursday announced a ruling validating Chile's claim that the Silala River is an international waterway and calling both parties to cooperate in the preservation of the natural resources in the area.

The end of the Silala case confirmed that the river is international and that Bolivia's consent is not necessary for the use of its waters. The ruling also found that Chile's use of the Silala river waters was reasonable but ultimately the decision was not explicitly in favor of either country. During the process, several points of conflict were solved between the parties, thus rendering some of the matters set before the court void. Hence, no winner was proclaimed.

The Court also instructed both countries to cooperate and to announce in advance any measure that might have an impact on shared water resources. Only by cooperating with each other will Chile and Bolivia find ways to prevent damage to the Silala, the ICJ found.

The ICJ also pointed out that both surface water and groundwater were to be treated as a whole flowing from Bolivia to Chile, something on which both parties also agreed, and ratified that Bolivia has the right to maintain or dismantle the currently existing canals.

“Chile went for legal certainty and obtained it,” Chilean President Gabriel Boric Font said as the verdict was read out. Boric spoke of a “solid and well-founded ruling, a decision that is favorable to what Chile has maintained”.

In 2016, Chile's then Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz sued Bolivia before The Hague for questioning the use of the Silala waters.

“Chile went to the Court for legal certainty and obtained it. It is confirmed that the Silala is an international watercourse whose use in its entirety is governed by international law,” Boric celebrated. He also underlined the fact that Chile does not owe Bolivia compensation: “This is relevant because Chile obtains legal certainty in an issue that Bolivia disputed.”

“Our country can be at ease with the Court's ruling. The issues in dispute have been definitively resolved,” Boric also pointed out.

In La Paz, Bolivian President Luis Arce Catacora said on Twitter that “Bolivia solved the controversy with a brother nation thanks to the work based on scientific studies and our international relations strategy.”

Fellow Socialists Arce and Boric had agreed during their meeting in Bogota this year while attending President Gustavo Petro's inauguration to set in motion an unprecedented pact to “streamline Bolivian free transit” through Chilean territory, as established in the 1904 Treaty, and decided to strengthen trade through the Port of Arica, the main route for national imports and exports.

“We will promote procedures to make free transit more agile, strengthen trade through the Port of Arica,” Arce had said at the time.

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