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Bolivia President Wants Dialogue With Chile Over Coastline


Bolivian President Evo Morales speaks to the media after a hearing at the International Court of Justice, in The Hague, Netherlands, March 20, 2018.

The president of land-locked Bolivia said Tuesday he is prepared to discuss options with neighboring Chile for gaining access to the Pacific, but said that powerful forces in Chile do not want talks.

"At the moment, some people representing the Chilean oligarchies" don't want negotiations, President Evo Morales said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

He spoke after lawyers for Bolivia presented arguments for a second day at the International Court of Justice in the latest attempt to solve a decades-long dispute over granting the country access to the sea.

Bolivia lost its only seacoast to Chile during a war from 1879 to 1883. The nation has demanded ocean access for generations. Chile says the issue was settled once and for all in a 1904 treaty.

Bolivia is now asking the World Court, the United Nations' highest judicial organ, to order Chile to negotiate access.

"If there is will for a dialogue, a will to solve this injury in the region, then we have to start with the dialogue and then we can set rules, times. We can have observers and have a dialogue,'' Morales said in a hotel near the court's ornate home, the Peace Palace.

"One proposal is a corridor to the Pacific Ocean," Morales said. "That is discussable."

Chile's lawyers will present their case to the court later this week. A final and binding decision by the court is expected to take months.

Morales said that he is keen to end to the dispute that has long strained relations between Bolivia and Chile.

"Two neighboring countries, we can't be in confrontation for the rest of our lives," he said. "We have to solve" this dispute.

On Monday, hundreds of Bolivians followed the beginning of the trial on giant screens set up in public squares. In La Paz, traditional shamans performed an offering to the Andean goddess Pachamama, which in English translates to Mother Earth, at the square in front of the presidential palace.

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