Uruguay denies Argentina's request to roll back recent decision allowing UPM to expand Fray Bentos pulp mill, asserts it is not violating River Uruguay Statute and UPM is not polluting river; Uruguay wants stricter environmental controls, says minister

LOS ANGELES , October 21, 2013 () – Uruguay is not going to reverse its decision allowing UPM-Kymmene Oyj to expand its pulp mill in Fray Bentos, said Uruguay Foreign Minister Luis Almagro on Oct. 16, reported the Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) on Oct. 18.

The minister was responding via letter to Argentina Foreign Minister Hector Timerman’s request send via a letter on Oct. 15. Timerman threatened to go to the International Court of Justice in The Hague if Uruguay does not change its mind.

However, Uruguay is not concerned about the threat, as it has done nothing wrong, said Almagro. In his seven-page letter he explains how Uruguay is not breaching the River Uruguay Statute, which was settled in 2010, Bernama reported.

Uruguay Deputy Foreign Minister Luis Porto does not believe Argentina will take its case to the International Court of Justice; but if it does, Uruguay believes its position will prevail, he said.

The statute settled a dispute between the two countries when the UPM mill was first proposed. The joint monitoring of the river called for in the statute has shown that the UPM mill does not pollute and complies with all environmental standards, said Almagro.

“Uruguay all along has acted in conformity with its international obligations,” Almagro stated, noting that Uruguay has “courteously” kept Argentina informed of the process, reported Bernama.

Almagro noted in the letter that he had presented Timerman with a proposal for imposing stricter environmental controls for the River Uruguay Statute, including at the mouth of the Gualeguaychu River, on the Argentina side across from UPM’s mill.

Earlier this month, UPM received Uruguay’s approval for a 100,000 tonnes/year expansion of its 1.1 million tonnes/year Fray Bentos mill. The approval is contingent on additional environmental requirements for the mill.

In his letter, Almagro also accuses Argentina of creating obstacles by repeatedly using the "data requests" instrument in the statute, saying the practice “denaturalizes a mechanism” created to consult and exchange information.

Uruguay is still willing to negotiate new, stricter environmental standards for the agreement, Almagro said in the letter, Bernama reported.

The primary source of this article is the Malaysian National News Agency (Burnama), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Oct. 18, 2013.

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