SANTIAGO – Chilean President Sebastian Piñera said on Monday that the World Court has reached a just decision in rejecting Bolivia’s maritime-access lawsuit, and reached out to the Evo Morales government with an offer to discuss matters of bilateral interest.
“The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague has done justice and has put things in their place, establishing clearly and categorically that Chile has never failed to fulfill any obligation in matters of international law,” Piñera said in a statement at La Moneda Palace, seat of the executive branch.
The president said the Bolivian lawsuit “was unfounded” and accused Morales of having given his citizens “false expectations.”
By a 12-3 vote, the ICJ ruled that Chile is not legally obliged to negotiate with Bolivia to give the landlocked nation “sovereign access” to the Pacific Ocean.
The judges found that Chile’s expressions over the last 116 years of a willingness to negotiate do not constitute a legal obligation to do so.
Piñera, who followed the reading of the verdict at the presidential palace together with several Cabinet ministers, expressed his readiness to enter into talks with the Bolivian authorities.
“Chile has a willingness, an attitude and a readiness for dialogue and to collaborate with all countries, particularly with neighboring countries, but always within the context of international law and with respect for existing treaties, while firmly defending our sovereignty,” he said.
Piñera said that despite the “great victory” in the ICJ, Chile will avoid “arrogance and pettiness,” though he urged the Bolivian government to read the verdict “attentively” and not persist with its demand.
“There are many in Bolivia who have said that this case isn’t closed. If Bolivia insists on trying some other way to violate Chilean land, sea or sovereignty, there’s nothing more to talk about with Bolivia,” he warned.
La Paz brought the case to the World Court in April 2013 after concluding that Santiago was unwilling to concede anything beyond an existing arrangement, which gives Bolivia duty-free access to the northern Chilean port of Arica.
Bolivia lost 400 kilometers (250 miles) of coastline and 120,000 sq. kilometers (46,330 sq. miles) of territory to Chile as a consequence of the 1879-1880 War of the Pacific.
Chile has argued that the 1904 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between La Paz and Santiago settled the border issue.
Santiago tried to get the ICJ to throw out the suit in 2015, but the judges refused, insisting that the court did have jurisdiction in the case.