Chile refuses bilateral negotiations over Bolivia border dispute

Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister Heraldo Munoz attends a meeting at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Havana on September 3, 2015 (AFP Photo/Yamil Lage)

Santiago (AFP) - Chile ruled out bilateral negotiations with Bolivia regarding the territorial conflict between the two neighboring countries Friday after the International Court of Justice assumed jurisdiction over the dispute.

"Why are we going to negotiate bilaterally? They are the ones who chose to go to The Hague," Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz said in New York, where he was accompanying President Michelle Bachelet on her visit to the UN General Assembly.

Thursday, the Hague-based ICJ ruled that it has jurisdiction to settle the dispute, in which Bolivia has asked the UN high court to order Chile to negotiate over the land-locked country's claim to Pacific Ocean access, which it lost following a 19th century war.

Bolivian President Evo Morales has called for a dialogue with Chile, and La Paz asked the ICJ in 2013 to order Chile to "negotiate in good faith and effectively with Bolivia toward the end of reaching an agreement ensuring it fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean."

Chile had objected, saying the ICJ had no jurisdiction over the dispute, a claim the Hague court rejected Thursday, saying Chile was obliged to negotiate, though not necessarily to guarantee access to the Pacific for Bolivia.