Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and Uruguayan counterpart Jose Mujica agreed here Monday to hold trilateral talks on the feasibility of transporting Bolivian natural gas to Uruguay via Argentina. Mujica arrived in Buenos Aires shortly after midday on an impromptu visit, meeting with Fernandez at her official residence on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Speaking to reporters after the discussions, Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana said Mujica told Fernandez that Uruguay would like to buy natural gas from Bolivia, an arrangement that would require the fuel to transit Argentina.
"A meeting will be arranged in the very short term," Argentine Cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez (no relation to the president) said, adding that Taiana would arrange talks involving the relevant officials from Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay. Those discussions will focus on the technical dimensions of exporting Bolivian gas to Uruguay via a trans-Argentine pipeline, Taiana said. Bolivia has Latin America's second-largest reserves of natural gas and currently exports the fuel to neighboring Argentina and Brazil.
Mujica, who took office last month, is trying to repair Montevideo's ties with Buenos Aires, which suffered amid a controversy over construction of a pulp mill on the Uruguayan side of the river that forms the two countries's shared border. Argentina claims the mill will damage the waterway, hurting tourism and fishing interests on its side of the river. Uruguay says those fears are unfounded.
While the dispute ultimately led to the two countries's filing competing suits before the International Court of Justice, Mujica says he wants to put the controversy to one side and concentrate on areas where Argentina and Uruguay can cooperate.