Presidents of Uruguay, Argentina have brief encounter at G77 + China summit but do not discuss conflict arising from Uruguay's authorization last week for UPM to increase capacity of Fray Bentos pulp mill; Uruguay minister seeks talks between countries

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay , June 16, 2014 () – Text of report in English by Uruguay-based Mercosur-focused MercoPress website on 16 June

The lasted chapter of the resurgent diplomatic conflict between Argentina and Uruguay was not addressed during a brief encounter of presidents Cristina Fernandez and Jose Mujica in Bolivia where they attended the G77 plus China summit over the weekend.

Almagro sent a letter to Timerman inviting him to dialogue but also recalling a long list of non delivered Argentine promises

In Bolivia the two presidents met during the G77 summit but there was only a very formal kiss

Nevertheless when asked about the situation, the Argentine leader said "I always talk with Mujica" but during her speech at the summit she strongly condemned 'unilateralism'.

Last week after Uruguay announced it had authorized the UPM/Botnia pulp mill to increase annual production, a furious Argentina reacted saying it would take the case back to the International Court of Justice of The Hague and would 'review' all contacts with every Uruguayan ministry and office, because of the unilateral decision from the Mujica administration.

Since Uruguay a decade ago gave the green light for the construction by a Finland corporation of the country's first major pulp mill on the shared Uruguay river which acts as a natural border, Argentinahas been strongly opposed alleging pollution fears and Uruguay's alleged non compliance with joint administration rules.

The situation became so serious that the international bridge linking the neighbouring countries, next to where the UPM mill is, was blocked by pickets for years and the case on Argentina's initiative ended in The Hague. The ruling in 2010 said the pulp mill was not contaminating according to current scientific information and Uruguay had acted accordingly but also suggested more communication.

Nevertheless Argentina continues to insist the mill contaminates the shared waters, and that there should be no innovation to the situation that was addressed by the international court.

Uruguay, complying with the Finnish investors contract and following more stringent environmental protection measures finally agreed to the increase in production.

In a long reply to Minister Hector Timerman's letter which described Uruguay's decision 'unfriendly' and announcing several retaliation measures, Minister Luis Almagro insisted the Mujica administration is ready to talk at any moment, anywhere to overcome the misunderstanding.

Furthermore Almagro points out to a list of projects and Argentine promises, never delivered, under the joint administration of the River Uruguay and considers that taking the case over an additional 100.000 tons to The Hague is 'totally disproportionate' and contrary to contractual spirit.

Argentina has not only tried to sink the UPM pulp mill project, but has also sabotaged agreements on ports, access canals to the River Plate and the River Uruguay, new projects along the River Uruguay and banned transshipment of Argentine cargo in the port of Montevideo, which has meant a 30 per cent drop in activity.

Since taking office in 2010 Mujica has tried a seduction policy, called 'servile' by the opposition, with some minor results, including the lifting of the bridge pickets, but lately it has been back to the beginning.

Uruguay is holding elections next October, Mujica's term will be over in March and a presidential ballot will take place a year later in Argentina, thus it all seems that the dispute will continue, probably in worst terms, and both neighbours will have to wait for the new leaders to emerge.

On arrival in Bolivia, Cristina Fernandez was quoted saying she "always talks with Mujica". But during her speech to the G77 insisted that 'unilateralism is not good for anybody, even for those who practice it".

Mujica made no reference to the bilateral conflict and simply philosophically questioned capitalism, waste, excessive consumerism and called for a global development respecting life in the planet.

Source: MercoPress website, Montevideo, in English 0626 gmt 16 Jun 14

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