LA PAZ – Chile wants 10 years to finish deactivating all the landmines along the border with Bolivia, the La Razon newspaper reported Tuesday, citing government officials.
The landmines deactivated so far by Chile were in areas near the customs post in the border town of Tambo Quemado, Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra told the newspaper.
“According to the information provided by military officials in Chile, they have only cleared the equivalent of about 20 percent of the total mines planted on the border with Bolivia. Of the 90,000 mines planted along the border, they have deactivated 19,000,” Saavedra said.
Saavedra and his Chilean counterpart, Jaime Ravinet, signed the “Territory Free of Mines” declaration in late July, covering the Tambo Quemado 1 and 2 fields on the border.
The two fields contained 3,300 antipersonnel mines and 1,100 anti-tank mines.
The Ottawa Convention, which outlaws the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel mines, calls for the mine-removal process to be completed in 2012.
The Chilean army began the work of destroying the landmines, which were planted in the 1970s, in 2005.
Chile has cleared about 20 percent of the landmines in the past five years, and a 10-year extension will be requested from the United Nations for completion of the work, Saavedra told La Razon.
The defense minister said he planned to ask the Chilean Defense Ministry for information on the clearing of mines in other areas.
Chile will also be asked to allow Bolivian soldiers to participate “as observers in this work,” Saavedra said.
International certification of the demining is to be carried out under the terms of the Ottawa Convention.
La Paz and Santiago have held talks since 2006 aimed at improving bilateral relations, with negotiators trying to seek compromise on issues such as Bolivia’s demand that Chile give it access to a strip of Pacific coastline that it seized from the now-landlocked nation in a 19th century war.
Enduring acrimony over the issue led Santiago and La Paz to break off full diplomatic relations in 1962, resuming ties only for a brief period from 1975 to 1978 during the military dictatorships of Gens. Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Hugo Banzer in Bolivia.
The two countries currently maintain only consular ties. EFE