LA PAZ – President Evo Morales said on Thursday that Bolivia was willing to hold talks with Chile over access to the Pacific Ocean, but he said Santiago had not been responsive.
“I want the dialogue between Chile and Bolivia to start, we have so many matters to discuss,” Morales told reporters in La Paz.
Morales noted the 2018 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that Chile had no legal obligation to discuss sovereign access to the sea with Bolivia.
The Bolivian government, however, contends that the ICJ ruling urged both parties to have a dialogue to resolve the dispute.
Bolivia lost its access to the sea in the 1879-1883 War of the Pacific, and Chile has asserted in the past that its border with Bolivia was fixed in a 1904 treaty.
Morales praised the resolution passed last month by the lower house of the Chilean Congress urging President Sebastian Piñera’s government to have a dialogue with Bolivia to improve diplomatic relations, which have been paralyzed by La Paz’s maritime access demands.
The Bolivian leader said it was unfortunate that “the Chilean government has not responded up to now” to his country’s willingness to have talks.
The Morales administration had initiated the proceedings before the ICJ, a United Nations body based in The Hague.
Morales said Bolivia had not received a response one way or the other to a letter sent to Santiago and called for “resolving the pending issues, we can’t leave them for future generations.”
“It’s better to negotiate, dialogue,” Morales said, adding that Bolivia would continue making its case for access to the sea at the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS).
OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro will visit Bolivia on May 17, the president said.
The topic of Bolivia getting back a stretch, even a short one, of coastline is a sore one in Chile, where virtually all politicians and the great majority of citizens consider the matter long closed.
The possibility of Chile giving Bolivia an outlet to the Pacific on the coast north of Arica, near the border with Peru, has nevertheless been brought up over and over again.
The Morales administration, for its part, contends that Chilean troops invaded Bolivia 140 years ago and stripped it of nearly 400 kilometers (almost 250 miles) of coast and some 120,000 sq. kilometers (46,332 sq. miles) of territory.
Bolivia and Chile have another case before the ICJ over the use of the Silala River’s waters.
Chile filed suit and Bolivia countersued, asking the ICJ to resolve the dispute over the waterway.
Bolivia’s repeated attempts to persuade Chile to return the coastal territory over the course of the last century caused the countries to break off diplomatic ties in 1962, with a brief resumption between 1975 and 1978, when both nations were ruled by military regimes.
The two South American countries have not had full diplomatic relations since 1978.