February 7, 2023

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World Court urges Chile and Bolivia to work together on Silala River By Reuters

By Stephanie van den Berg

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Judges at the World Court ruled on Thursday that Chile and landlocked Bolivia had now settled previous disputes over access to the waters of the Silala River and that they did not need to rule on Chile’s claims in court.

The judges urged South America’s neighbors to work together on issues surrounding the border river, which flows through one of the driest places on earth, because such a “common resource can only be protected by working together.”

Speaking to reporters from the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chilean President Gabriel Boric said the ruling gave Chile the legal certainty it was looking for.

Boric said the ruling confirms that the Silala River is an international watercourse governed by international law.

“Chile went to court for legal certainty and got it,” Boric said.

Bolivia’s Foreign Minister Rogelio Mayta said the ruling gave Bolivia fair and reasonable use of the Silala River.

“Today, the controversy over the nature and uses of the waters of the Silala River is closed,” Mayta said in a statement. “And henceforth Bolivia will exercise its rights over the waters of the Silala River based on the ruling.”

Chile had asked the court to rule that the Silala, which runs through the Atacama Desert, was an international waterway.

Judges said Thursday that during the hearings it became clear that states did not agree in principle on designating the river or on allowing Chile access to its waters.

Bolivia and Chile severed diplomatic ties decades ago over territorial disputes, including Bolivia’s demands for sea access. They have already taken their longstanding rivalry to court in The Hague.

In 2018, the court ruled in Chile’s favor in a case brought by Bolivia, demanding that Chile begin negotiations to grant Bolivia a corridor to the sea.

The Court of Justice, officially known as the International Court of Justice, is the United Nations court for settling disputes between States.