VIENNA – Bolivian President Evo Morales told a United Nations conference Monday his country had been “temporarily deprived” of a seacoast in 1879 and called on Chile to hold a dialogue on ceding Bolivia “sovereign” access to the Pacific.
“Bolivia is landlocked. Bolivia is a country that has been temporarily deprived of its access to the sea,” Morales told the plenary session of the conference of landlocked developing countries in Vienna, in which delegates from 32 nations are taking part.
Bolivia sued Chile in April 2013 before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking a ruling requiring that negotiations be held to give Sucre access to the Pacific Ocean, a coastline it lost in a war in 1879.
In that war, Bolivia gave up 400 miles of coastline and 120,000 square kilometers of territory.
“Bolivia was deprived, against its will, of a coastline. We were born as a country with over 400 kilometers of coastline on the Pacific Ocean,” the president continued.
“An unjust invasion in the late nineteenth century ignored concepts of the universality of the seas and deprived us of our coastal territory,” he added.
“Even today, we are still deprived of free and sovereign access to the sea,” he said.
Morales stressed that “Bolivia is a country of peace that believes in dialogue, so we always go in good faith to resolve our differences peacefully.”
However, owing to “Chile’s permanent procrastination” regarding this matter, his country has resolved to bring it before the International Court of Justice.
“Bolivia does not seek to alter international order and stability,” he reassured the delegates. “Bolivia respects international law and uses the means and mechanisms it provides for the peaceful resolution of disputes.”
Bolivia has until November 14 to reply to Chile’s objection to the jurisdiction of the ICJ over this case.
Paraguay and Bolivia are the two Latin American countries taking part in the UN conference in which heads of state and government are present, as well as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Most of the 32 states represented at the conference are located in Africa (16) and Asia (10). Four European countries including Macedonia and Armenia, are also represented.
Landlocked nations are home to nearly 500 million people, but they have only a 1.2 percent share in world trade and as a result, face a number of problems, such as higher costs for their exports.
According to the UN, the absence of a coastline is a major obstacle for development because high transport costs result in low levels of trade, which impact negatively on economic growth and social welfare.