BUENOS AIRES – Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and Uruguayan counterpart Jose Mujica said on Wednesday their governments are working to “re-channel” bilateral ties frayed by a dispute over the construction of paper mill on Uruguay’s side of a border river.
“A stage to re-channel the bilateral relationship is beginning,” Fernandez said with Mujica at her side after an hour-long meeting at the Argentine leader’s official residence outside Buenos Aires.
Mujica, however, cautioned that the presidents “are not magicians” and called for a “process of successive stages” to build mutual confidence.
“This will take time,” said Mujica, urging both sides to “clear away the conflict” over the construction of a paper mill on his country’s side of the Uruguay River, which is jointly administered by Montevideo and Buenos Aires.
Fernandez hosted her colleague a week after the International Court of Justice ruled that the Uruguayan paper mill did not cause environmental damage and rejected Argentina’s demand for compensation.
At the same time, the judges found that Montevideo did not fulfill its obligation under the Uruguay River Statute to inform Argentina in advance about the project.
The Argentine government was expecting an apology from Mujica – who took office last month – for Uruguay’s failure to comply with the treaty, but the Uruguayan leader said earlier Wednesday that he had no plans to apologize to Fernandez.
Neither president mentioned the matter of an apology in their appearance after the talks, where reporters were not allowed to ask questions.
“Our reality obliges us to build a friendship beneficial for both sides,” Mujica said.
The presidents made no mention of the sporadic blockades that Argentine environmentalists angry about the paper mill have mounted over the past three years on an key bridge over the Uruguay River.
Those protests, which continue even after the ruling by the International Court of Justice, have disrupted cross-border trade and prompted Uruguay to file formal complaints in regional venues and with the ICJ. EFE