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ICJ to Rule on Bolivia’s Access to Sea, So What’s At Stake?

teleSUR | September 24, 2015

The International Court of Justice in The Hague is preparing to rule this Thursday on whether or not it will hear Bolivia’s claim demanding access to the Pacific Ocean, which has revived an age-old dispute between them and neighboring Chile.

Bolivia brought its claim against Chile to the ICJ in 2013, based on almost a century’s worth of diplomatic and historical documents in which Santiago committed to resolve the issue of Bolivia’s access to the sea. The coastal territory was taken from Bolivia in The War of the Pacific (1879-1883) between the two countries, and Peru.

Meanwhile, the Chilean government says Bolivia’s claim has no bearing in the international court, saying the issue was resolved by a treaty signed by both nations in 1904, and has asked to have the claim dismissed.

Both countries were given four days with the ICJ earlier this year to justify their positions regarding how much jurisdiction the court should have on the territorial dispute. The court will finally announce their decision Thursday, which could go either way.

Both sides stand to gain economically by controlling the coastal region. For Bolivia – one of only two landlocked countries in Latin America – it could boost the country’s trade. According to figures from the World Bank, landlocked developing countries trade on average 30 percent less than coastal countries.

As a result of higher transportation costs, Bolivia’s exports are 55 percent more expensive than those from Chile and 60 percent more expensive than those from Peru, according to Global Risk Insights.

For Chile, many Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals and pipelines are spread throughout its northern shoreline, the territory under dispute. LNG is imported by sea and is a major source of electricity for the country, which is not rich in hydrocarbons. It is unlikely Chile will be willing to give up this territory.

The Hague could rule either way Thursday. If it rules in favor of Bolivia and agrees to hear its claim, both countries will be invited to return to the court to present oral arguments as to why Bolivia thinks Chile has a legal obligation to negotiate sovereign access to the Pacific. Chile will of course argue the contrary.

This entire process, if it moves forward, will likely take another three to five years, with lawmakers saying any changes are not expected until at least 2020.

Bolivian President Evo Morales has said that he will commit to The Hague’s ruling, regardless of how it decides, explaining that the ICJ had been set up by the United Nations to achieve justice.

However, many speculate that regardless of ICJ’s decision Thursday, relations between the two South American nations have already been strained.

September 24, 2015 - Posted by | Aletho News | , ,

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