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Document Creation Date: 
June 24, 2015
Document Release Date: 
April 18, 2011
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Publication Date: 
December 13, 1978
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llirct'tor of ( rntrjl [I It, iirnir National Irate (Cable) (b)(1) (b)(3) FEATURE ARTICLE ARGENTINA-CHILE: Background of Dispute by miss on the major issues. The dispute between Argentina and Chile over the Beagle Channel and related territorial claims is typical of many South American boundary problems that stem from early, ambiguously worded agreements and treaties formu- lated before accurate maps were available. Recent ef- forts at negotiation and arbitration have failed, largely because neither aide is prepared to accept any oompro- The Beagle Channel serves as an alternate route to the Strait of Magellan and to the course around Cape Horn for travel between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. A treaty negotiated in 1881 stipulated that the boundary between Argentina and Chile should run north- south through Tierra del Fuego, dividing Isla Grande into two parts, with Argentina getting the eastern part and Chile the western part. All islands along the At- lantic coast were to belong to Argentina; those south of the Beagle Channel as far as Cape Horn and g the Pacific coast were to belong to Chile. gentine. The Chileans soon claimed that the north-south line dividing Isla Grande was to stop at the northern shore of the Beagle Channel, so that the channel itself as well as all territory to the south belonged to Chile. The Argentines countered that the north-south line reaches midchannel and that a portion of the channel belongs to them. The Chileans also held that the channel extends eastward as far as Cabo San Pio, making the small is- lands of Picton, Lennox, and Nueva theirs; the Argentines claimed that the channel turns southward to the west of Picton and Lennox, and the islands are, therefore, Ar- Picton, Lennox, and Nueva have no more than a dozen or so Chilean residents and no Argentines. With the pos- sible exception of some nitrate deposits, they contain no known mineral or other resources of significance. F_ In recent years, however# the importance of Tierra del Fuego has grown. Oilfields and enormous sheep ranches occupy the northern part of the region. In the south, Ushuaia, Argentina, has grown to a town of 6,000 inhabitants, with an airfield, a naval base, a hydro- electric plant, and a road that-allows-access to the northern part of the island. Chile maintains a small naval base at Puerto Williams, south of the Beagle Channel on Isla Navarino. The town has an airstrip, a radio station, a hotel, and a civilian population of about 700. A series of incidents, including one in 1967 in which a Chilean PT boat was fired at by an Argentine patrol ship, led Chile to seek British arbitration of the lingering channel dispute. Argentina rejected the idea but-signed a treaty in 1972 submitting the claim to the International Court of Justice. The Court's ver- diet wnuld an fo-th British for approval or disapproval. in May 1977, the Court decided that the Beagle Channel should be divided between the two countries and the disputed islands awarded to Chile. Implementation of the decision, which was accepted by the British, was set for February 1978. In December 1977, however, Argentina-- which had already indicated it would not accept the Court's ruling--began a press campaign and a number of economic and military moves to prompt concessions from Presidents Videla and Pinochet met in Mendoza, Ar- gentina, in January 1978 and in Puerto Montt, Chile, in February and signed agreements creating a joint commis- sion and outlining a phased negotiating process. The first phase ended in April without. any significant prog- ress. In the second phase of negotiations, attention shifted away from the islands in the mouth of the Beagle Channel to a number of smaller islands to the south, in- cluding Evout, Barnevelt, and Hornos. Argentina wants a boundary line that would run through these islands be- fore the line turns south along the Cape Horn meridian or, better yet, a boundary that would place one or more of the islands entirely in Argentine territory. Intru- sion of the Chileans'into the Atlantic is resented by the Argentines, who feel that it breaks a gentlemen's power. agreement between the two countries that Argentina should be an Atlantic power and Chile exclusively a Pacific Argentina is particularly concerned about the ef- fect the Court's awards to Chile might have on control of ocean resources; both countries claim sovereignty shelf petroleum and coastal fisheries are the resources of greatest interest, but the value and the extent of over resources within 200 miles of the coast. Continental these in the area are unknown. An additional Argentine concern is that the Court ruling will adversely affect Argentina's Antarctic claim which overlaps that of Chile. cE 11 :Fop See