Eight foreign ministers and 11 undersecretaries from the Rio Group of Latin American nations took part in the two days of talks in Pilar, 70 kilometres northwest of Buenos Aires.
They were laying the groundwork for a Rio Group presidential summit to be held at the end of August in the Argentine mountain resort of Bariloche.
They were also preparing for the Summit of the Americas, which will gather the heads of state from 34 nations in Mar del Plata on Argentina’s south Atlantic coast in November.
Rafael Bielsa, the Argentine Foreign Minister who served as host for the talks in Pilar, said the Rio Group nations would jointly back new initiatives to fight poverty as a step to further strengthen democracy in the region.
Envoys also spoke in support of safeguarding democratic institutions in Nicaragua, where President Enrique Bolaí±os has been battling adversaries in Congress who want to oust him.
The Rio Group was created in 1986 in Rio de Janeiro by Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela, amid serious armed conflicts in several Central American countries.
Meanwhile Bielsa and his Uruguayan counterpart Reinaldo Gargano agreed that a bilateral team would meet “as soon as possible” to gauge the possible environmental impact of two paper pulp mills that Uruguay is building and that Argentina alleges may pollute its environment.
The case has sparked a diplomatic row and Argentina said on Tuesday that if Uruguay goes ahead with the construction of the plants without the necessary environmental impact studies, Argentina would resort to the international courts.
Uruguay is building the plants in Fray Bentos, opposite the Argentine city of Gualeguaychú and across the Uruguay River shared by both countries.
Despite Argentina’s legal threat, both Bielsa and Gargano have said that the dispute hasn’t affected bilateral relations at all.
The bilateral team is due to issue a report within 180 days, the two foreign ministries said in a joint statement after Bielsa and Gargano met in Pilar.
Uruguay failed to attend two previous meetings of the team of experts, disappointed at Argentina’s having requested the World Bank to withhold financing for the pulp plants pending the environmental studies.
Separately, Bielsa reaffirmed that “Argentina will support Brazil’s candidate” to head the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Talking to reporters, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said that Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had called his Argentine colleague Néstor Kirchner to ask him to vote for Brazilian Joao Sayad – the IDB’s vice-president – as the new head of the multilateral agency. Amomim said that Lula was highly satisfied with his talk with Kirchner.
This article appeared originally in Mercopress – www.mercopress.com.