Argentina and Chile have failed to reach agreement on their territorial dispute over three small islands in the Beagle Channel.
Argentina and Chile have failed to reach agreement on their territorial dispute over three small islands in the Beagle Channel. The two countries ended a length series of negotiations on Thursday (2 November). A joint communique issued in Santiago and Buenos Aires, said the two negotiating teams had been unable to solve the question of a southern border in the Beagle Channel -- which connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans near the tip of South america. The conflicting claims to the Beagle Channel islands have led to fears that war could break out between Argentina and Chile.
SYNOPSIS: The venue for the negotiations was the chilean capital, Santiago. Public interest in the unfolding drama has been high and newspapers carrying the news of the deadlocked talks were soon sold out.
The two negotiating teams met in Argentina's Embassy in Santiago, where they managed to solve other issues -- such as the co-ordination of their policies on Antarctica, which had been the subject of an earlier dispute. But the main issue remained unsolved. The dispute over the Beagle Channel area intensified late last year after the International Court awarded the islands to Chile. Argentina rejected the verdict, claiming the decision was based on historical and geographical errors.
The negotiating teams signed a document declaring the results of their talks. This is currently being studied by Chilean leaders, including President Augusto Pinochet.
In Argentina, tension mounted as the deadline for ending the negotiations drew nearer. The three disputed islands, which were administered by Britain until 1972, have potentially rich resources of oil and fish. Newspapers run by the Argentine Government have recently carried reports stating that war is a possibility, and President Videla himself hinted at this in an interview.
In Buenos Aires, rumours about the failure of the talks and the possibility of war with Chile led to a minor panic on the money markets. Demand for United States dollars increased sharply with some customers buying up to three hundred thousand and dollars in the currency in a single day.
In the San Francisco Church in Buenos Aires, a special mass was held to pray for peace between Argentina and Chile. But war remains the main topic of conversation in the capital. The military authorities have announced that some half a million reserves could be called up and tanks have been shipped from the far north to the disputed territory. Last month (October), suburbs were plunged into darkness in a full-scale black-out exercise. But the chilean authorities have dismissed these activities as sabre-rattling, and psychological warfare.