Argentina and Uruguay Bring Their Dirty Laundry to Brazil

Uruguay and Argentina clashed over the pulp mills controversy during the meeting of the Mercosur ministerial Council currently taking place in Rio do Janeiro, in the Brazilian southeast.

Uruguayan Foreign Affairs minister Reinaldo Gargano accused Argentina of not respecting the free movement of people and goods,  enshrined in the Mercosur charter, by acting passively towards the pickets that are blocking bridges leading to Uruguay in protest over the building of a pulp mill.

Environmentalists and Argentine officials argue that the pull mills are contaminating and Uruguay refuses to dialogue until pickets are lifted.

Argentina's Jorge Taiana replied in an acrimonious exchange that "it's the government of Uruguay that has shown no real dialogue willingness or desire to solve the pulp mills controversy, or respect the River Uruguay statute which is at the heart of the matter".

"Uruguay has consistently ignored Argentine claims and unilaterally decided to authorize Botnia to build the pulp mill and make use of significant volumes of water which by a 1975 agreement must be agreed by both sides", said Taiana.

Eduardo Sigal Argentine Deputy Secretary for Economic Integration said there was "an important discussion" behind closed doors, when Uruguay complained about the blocking of bridges and harassment in Buenos Aires ferry terminal.

"For Argentina the origin of the conflict is basically the violation of the River Uruguay Treaty," underlined Sigal.

Taiana added that the Uruguayan government says it won't dialogue with pickets still operating, "but when there was no bridge blocking it rejected the dialogue proposed by President Nestor Kirchner when the inauguration ceremony of President Bachelet in Chile".

However according to Brazilian press reports the dispute was cut short when Brazil's Foreign Secretary Celso Amorim said the issue was "bilateral".

Gargano was furious with Brazil's position and literally walked out of the ministerial meeting, refusing to be present for the official photo of the meeting. Finally following mediation from several diplomats Gargano returned for the picture.

Mercopress

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