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Humala and Piñera in Havana show of unity

Chile''s President Sebastián Piñera, left, and Peru''s President Ollanta Humala meet during the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC Summit in Havana, Cuba, yesterday.
Presidents agree to ‘gradual and timely’ implemention of ICJ ruling on maritime border

HAVANA — As the echoes of Monday’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) continued to reverberate in Santiago and Lima yesterday, Presidents Ollanta Humala and Sebastián Piñera of Peru and Chile met on the sidelines of the CELAC (Community of Latin America and Caribbean States) summit in Havana in a show of unity.

As some question marks began to crop up about the implementation of the ICJ’s decision and politicians on both countries made strong declarations, Humala and Piñera met for over an hour and issued a joint statement that evoked a spirit of cooperation that matched the overarching themes of the CELAC summit.

Peruvian politicians yesterday insisted that the ICJ’s decision was already in effect and that implementation had to go ahead immediately. In fact, Peruvian war and research vessels on Tuesday entered the area of the sea awarded to Lima that had previously been considered international waters by Chile. President Humala himself reportedly spoke to the captains of the ships and monitored their progress.

Meanwhile, Chile’s agent to the ICJ, Alberto van Klaveren, argued that Peru had to first amend its Constitution to bring it in line with the statutes of the Convention of the Sea, as specified by the ICJ’s ruling. In response, the President of the Peruvian Congress, Fredy Otárola, said to local media that the ICJ’s decision did not in any way call for any modifications to any existing Peruvian legislation.

The differences in opinion are important because it affects the timetable for implementation of the ruling. While Chile has expressed its disagreement with the ruling but its willingness to implement it, it has also advised that the implementation cannot be immediate.

In a statement just as salomonic in intent as the ICJ ruling, Piñera and Humala called for a “gradual and timely” implementation for the decision in “good faith.” They did not specify what “gradual” and “timely” meant.

They also announced that they will each participate in “2+2” meetings with their respective foreign and defence ministers to administer the implementation.

Incidentally, Piñera was accompanied by President-elect Michelle Bachelet during the meeting. Bachelet’s administration will be primarily responsible for the implementation of the agreement and so far her statements on the matter have mirrored Piñera’s stance.

Piñera and Humala finalized their statement by reaffirming their commitment to cooperation and expressed their wish that the ruling would help bury this uncomfortable and acrimonious element of their shared history.

Cross-border investment and trade are blossoming between Peru and Chile and both are important members of the Pacific Alliance, a political and economic forum shared with Mexico and Colombia. Each have much to gain from continued stability and a further strengthening of their relationship.

To do so, Piñera and Humala must navigate the thorny issues that have sprung from the ICJ’s ruling. The Chilean fishing industry, which stood to lose up to $US200 million from an adverse ruling, emerged relatively unscathed as the ICJ preserved their fishing rights to a limit up to 80 miles from the coast. The seas beyond that line were awarded to Peru.

However, the small percentage of fishermen who regularly went beyond that limit in the past to catch deep-sea and commercially-valuable species such as albacore tuna and swordfish have lamented their loss of earnings. The Chilean government has already agreed to measures such as early retirement and investments in fisheries but their effect remains to be seen.

Peruvian and Chilean politicians also voiced strong opinions over an area measuring approximately 38,000 square metres adjacent to the current land border and currently a “no-man’s land,” although Chile claims territorial control over the area. Peruvian politicians and the Peruvian agent before the ICJ, Allan Wagner, unequivocally claimed that the land now belongs to Peru as a result of the ICJ ruling, sparking an angry response from former Chilean president Eduardo Frei, who also belongs to Michelle Bachelet’s New Majority coalition.

Humala’s statement yesterday that all territorial disputes between Peru and Chile have now been settled for good did not indicate his position on the matter. However, President Humala is scheduled to speak before the Peruvian Congress tomorrow and his position may become clearer then.

— Herald with AP, online media

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