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Morales plans talks with Chile after ICJ ruling setback

Bolivians await the decision of the International Court of Justice regarding Bolivia's maritime claim against Chile in La Paz on October 1, 2018.
Bolivians await the decision of the International Court of Justice regarding Bolivia's maritime claim against Chile in La Paz on October 1, 2018. Bolivians await the decision of the International Court of Justice regarding Bolivia's maritime claim against Chile in La Paz on October 1, 2018. AFP
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La Paz (AFP)

President Evo Morales will send a letter to his Chilean counterpart to explore the possibility of talks after the world court rejected Bolivia's demand for access to the sea from its neighbor, an official said.

"The president has made it known that he is sending a letter to the government of Chile to enter into dialogue on this issue of the court," said the official, Juan Carlos Huanca.

Huanca, a leader of the National Coordination for Change -- which brings together the biggest social movements aligned with the presidency -- was speaking after a meeting with Morales.

He said that a Bolivian diplomat in The Hague had met earlier with Morales to "prepare notes with a view to what may be involved in the new dialogue with Chile."

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera said the court had clearly established that Chile had no obligation to negotiate sea access with Bolivia.

Huanca said Morales would also send a letter to the United Nations, making it aware of Bolivia's objections to the court ruling.

The Hague-based International Court of Justice ruled on October 1 against landlocked Bolivia in a row with Chile over access to the Pacific Ocean that dates back to the 19th century.

The ICJ said Chile had "no legal obligation to negotiate" sea access with its neighbor.

ICJ judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf said however he hoped that "with willingness on the part of both parties meaningful negotiations can be undertaken."

Morales took Santiago to the top UN court in The Hague in 2013 to try to force it to the negotiating table over its lack of sea access, a long-running strain on relations between the two South American countries.

The leftist Bolivian president said afterwards he hoped Chile "respects the last paragraph of the ruling where the court invokes us to continue talking about the issue of the sea."

Bolivia and Chile maintain ties only at the consular level since 1978, after failing to agree a maritime settlement.

Huanca also said Morales would travel to southern Peru next Sunday to oversee the landing of 9,000 tons of cargo at the port of Ilo.

After the ICJ ruling, Morales' government announced it would reduce its dependence on the Chilean ports of Arica, Iquique and Antofagasta, which accounts for the bulk of its trade.

It now intends to boost cargo traffic through Peru and construct an inter-ocean railway linking it with the Pacific coast of Peru and the Atlantic coast of Brazil.

Bolivia lost its route to the sea in a 1879-1883 war with Chile. And Santiago has rejected every attempt since by its smaller, poorer neighbor to win it back.

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