Chile, Bolivia near deal on disputed Silala river
Chile and neighboring Bolivia are nearing a deal on using water from a river that flows across their shared border, Chilean officials said.
Bolivia has long insisted that it should be compensated for use of water flowing down the Silala river into Chile, and under the deal Chilean companies like state copper giant Codelco would pay Bolivia for some of the water they use.
"There is substantial agreement towards inking a pact soon ... on the basis that they are waters that both countries are sharing and it seems logical to us that both countries can benefit from their use," Alberto van Klaveren, Chile's deputy foreign minister, told reporters.
"We believe a 50-50 formula for use of these waters is absolutely valid and reasonable," he added, saying companies from mining interests to a railway should pay for water they use.
He spoke after a meeting with Bolivia's visiting Deputy Foreign Minister Hugo Fernandez in Santiago late on Friday.
"I think we have advanced together significantly," Fernandez said. "There are still some pending issues. We are going to meet again in May to continue to move forward."
Landlocked Bolivia lost its only sea access during the War of the Pacific with Peru and Chile in the late 19th century, and the issue has long strained ties.
Chile's Public Works Minister Sergio Bitar said on Saturday the two governments would measure the flow and use of water from the Silala river to be able to calculate how much firms using the water should pay to Bolivia.
"From the point of view of relations between the two countries, I would call this a historic deal," Bitar told local radio.
"It not only resolves an issue of conflict ... It also enables us to think of more important water resource deals in future," he added, mentioning a highway that will link Brazil's Atlantic port of Santos and the Pacific ports of Iquique in northern Chile and Arequipa in Peru.