Papal mediation in the Beagle conflict

Papal mediation in the Beagle conflict

After the failure of the negotiations with Chile, on 22 December 1978 the Argentina Junta started the Operation Soberanía in order to invade the islands around Cape Horn awarded to Chile by the binding Beagle Channel Arbitration. A few hours later, Pope John Paul II, alarmed by the situation and on his own initiative, offered a mediation and sent his personal envoy Cardinal Antonio Samoré to Buenos Aires. Argentina, in acceptance of the authority of the Pope over the overwhelmingly Catholic Argentine population, called off the military operation and accepted the mediation. On 9 January 1979 Chile and Argentina signed the [ Act of Montevideo] formally requesting mediation by the Vatican and renouncing the use of force.

Interests of the parties

The mediator acted to defuse the situation by bringing the parties to an agreement that stopped the immediate military crisis. Then, the Vatican crafted a six-year process that allowed the parties to grapple with increasingly difficult issues, including navigation rights, sovereignty over other islands in the Fuegian Archipelago, delimitation of the Straits of Magellan, and maritime boundaries south to Cape Horn and beyond.
* Chile considered the Arbitral Award of 1977 "…fully operative and obligatory in law…" as expressed by the Court of Arbitration after the Argentine Refusal [See "Der Schiedsspruch in der Beagle-Kanal-Streitigkeit", Karin Oellers-Frahm, Page 353] .
* Argentine repudiated the "British" Arbitral Award that the government of Alejandro Lanusse had solicited in 1971.
* Argentina extended the conflict to all territories southward of Tierra del Fuego and eastward of the Cape Horn-Meridian. That is, Argentina claimed the islands Horn, Wollastone, Deceit, Barnevelt, Evouts, Herschell, etc.
* In 1978, during the accelerated military mobilization appeared on the agenda other latent problems between Chile and Argentina that until then had been intentionally overseen or ignored. There was a controversy about the east end of the Straits of Magellan. Both countries agreed about the boundary line, but not about the end of the Straits. The Chilean view was that the Straits ended at the boundary line and eastward continued the Atlantic Ocean and therefore Chile had a "beach" at (and its projection over) the Atlantic Ocean and it enjoyed sole control of the Straits themselves. The Argentine view was that the Straits continued eastward of the border and that the east end of the Straits of Magallan belonged to Argentina. Under this view, it was coproprietor with the right to co-regulate the navigation through the Straits. Chile had no border with the Atlantic Ocean.

The west end of the Straits of Magallan was also cause for a conflict. Argentina considered the channels and bays part of the straits and demanded from Chile free navigation through all waters as stipulated in the Boundary Treaty of 1881 for the Straits. Chile regarded only the main arm as the Strait.

On 14 June 1977 the Chilean Government had issued the [ decree n°416] over the baselines (See Chilean [
] Map). The decree had two main implications for the controverse. First, it extended the basis from which Chile might attempt to project its 12-miles territorial sea and 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone along an continued line from Picton, Nueva, and Lennox Islands as far south as Cape Horn, thus greatly increasing its potential maritime jurisdiction to the east and southeast. Second, it effectively converted all waters enclosed by the baselines into Chilean internal waters, where navigational rights for Argentina would exist only through explicit agreements with Chile. The Argentine port of Ushuaia, located on the north shore of the east Beagle Channel, had no direct free way to the Pacific Ocean. Argentina thus considered its unfettered use of the waters surrounding the Fuegian Archipelago to be a matter of critical importance for its commercial and military navigation.

The two countries have always linked their Antarctic claims to their continental possessions because the nearness and the projection of the countries over the Antarctic can substantiate a claim over territories.


By the beginning of November 1978, Chile and Argentina no longer had any mechanism for working toward a peaceful settlement and the situation began to destabilize rapidly. It was at this point, with direct talks dead and a judicial settlement refused by Argentina, that Chile suggested mediation. Argentina accepted the proposal and the two foreign ministers agreed to meet in Buenos Aires on December 12 for the purpose of selecting a mediator and the terms of mediation. Possible candidates were [See Alejandro Luis Corbacho: Predicting the Probability of War During Brinkmanship Crises: The Beagle and the Malvinas Conflicts, Universidad del CEMA, Argentina, Documento de Trabajo No. 244, September 2003, page 8]
* Jimmy Carter, President of the United States of America
* the Organization of American States,
* Juan Carlos I of Spain, King of Spain
* a European president
* Pope John Paul IIThe ministers concurred on the issue that the Pope should mediate the dispute, but their agreement proved ephemeral. In the evening, as the Chilean delegation was studying the documents for signature, the Argentine minister called the Chilean minister Cubillos to tell him that President Videla, who had approved their choice of mediator, had been stripped of his authority by the junta.

In these circumstances one came to 22 December 1978, the day at Argentina started the Operation Soberania to occupy militarily the islands.

On the morning of December 22, Pope John Paul II, on his own initiative, contacted both governments directly to communicate them that he was sending a personal envoy to Buenos Aires and Santiago on a mission of good offices.

The Act of Montevideo

In Montevideo, Uruguay, on 8 January 1979 both countries signed the [ Act of Montevideo] . In this contract the parties agreed to:
* no restrictions whatsoever over the mediation (textual: "«…they will raise no objection to the expression by the Holy See, during these proceedings, of such ideas as its thorough studies on a disputed aspects of the problem of the southern zone may suggest to it, with a view to contributing to a peaceful settlement acceptable to both Parties…»")
* "«…Antonio Cardinal Samoré … asks that that request " [of mediation] " should be accompanied by an undertaking that the two States will not resort to the use of force in their mutual relations, will bring about a gradual return to the military situation existing at the beginning of 1977 and will refrain from adopting measures that might impair harmony in any sector.…»".

The treaty given to the mediator a broad action framework without any geographical data or temporal restrictions.

List of members of the Chilean Delegation in Rome:

List of members of the Argentine Delegation in Rome:

Cardinal Antonio Samoré's principal assistant was the Spanish priest Monsignor Faustino Sainz Muñoz.

The four phases of the mediation

Mark Laudy [Mark Laudy, "The Vatican Mediation of the Beagle Channel Dispute: Crisis Intervention and Forum Building" [] ] sees four phases during the mediation:
* The first phase was the shortest and most critical period of the entire mediation and began with Samoré’s arrival in Buenos Aires on 25th December 1978, was a pure crisis intervention, a shuttle diplomacy. To prevent a war and secure an agreement to submit the matter to mediation, Samoré flew between Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires until the objectives were achieved with the signing of the Act of Montevideo on January 8, 1979.
* The second periode ran from May 1979, when the Chilean and Argentine delegations arrived in Rome, through December 1980, when the Pope presented the parties with his proposal for settling the dispute. This first proposal was refused by Argentina.
* The third and longest phase, running from the beginning of 1981 until December 1983, after Argentina’s return to democracy, was characterized by long periods of stalled negotiations. The most significant developments during this period were the Argentine repudiation of the 1972 General Treaty; the subsequent effort to fill the juridical vacuum resulting from that repudiation; and the Falklands war, which set the stage for the return to democracy in Argentina.
* The last phase began when Raúl Alfonsín assumed the presidency in Buenos Aires at the end of 1983 and ended with the signing of the 1984 Treaty of Peace and Friendship.

The papal proposal of 1980

On December 12, 1980, the Pope received both delegations and communicated to them his proposal for resolving the controverse, the terms of which had been developed entirely in secret and should be kept secret in order to avoid debilitating public debate that might diminish confidence in the proceedings and limit the freedom of action of both governments. But on 22th. August 1981 the Argentine newspaper La Nación published the terms of the proposal. Chile would retain all of the islands and Argentina would be entitled to maintain certain limited facilities (common Radar and Weather stations) on some islands and would receive important navigation rights. Most important, however, was the creation of an ocean area known as the Sea of Peace. In this area, extending to the east and southeast from the disputed chain of islands, Chilean territorial waters would be limited to a narrow territorial sea, in which it would be obliged to share with Argentina equal participation in resource exploitation, scientific investigation, and environmental management. Beyond the Chilean territorial waters would be a much broader band of ocean subject to Argentine jurisdiction, but also subject to the same sharing provisions that applied in Chilean waters.

Chile accepted the papal proposal, despite some reservations. Argentina never formally replied to the proposal. However, in March 1981, Argentina delivered a note to the Vatican expressing grave misgivings about the proposal, both because it failed to award any islands to Argentina and because it allowed Chile to maintain a presence so far into the Atlantic.

To the Falklands war

After the papal proposal, negotiations remained stalled and meanwhile, a train wreck of incidents in Chile and Argentina strained relations between the two countries.

On 22 January 1981 Argentina again put the mediation at risk by announcing that it would terminate the 1972 General Treaty on the Judicial Settlement of Disputes, that allowed both countries to bring a unilateral action at the International Court of Justice, at the end of its initial ten-year term. [See article [ Argentina denuncia el tratado con Chile sobre el Beagle] in Spanish newspaper El País on 23 January 1982 (in spanish language).]

On 28 April 1981 General Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri, (then Argentine army chief, later, during the Falklands war, President of Argentina), closed the border to Chile without any consultation with his own president. [See article [ Historia de la santa mediación] in Argentine newspaper Clarín, Buenos Aires, on 20th December 1998: «Me calenté, se justificó Galtieri ante el fastidiado comandante de la Marina, almirante Lambruschini, quien le preguntó: Pero se da usted cuenta que el país se encuentra así envuelto en una peligrosa escalada?»" (Translation; I lost my cool, justify himself Galtieri, as the annoyed Chief of the Argentine Navy, Admiral Lambruschini, asked him: Don't you notice that it bring the country in a dangerous escalation?)] .

In March 1982, five weeks before the beginning of the Falklands war, a ship of the Argentine navy, "ARA Francisco de Gurruchaga", anchored at the Deceit island, de facto under Chilean sovereignty since 1881, and refused to abandon the bay despite Chilean demands [See article [ Pinochet ordena el acuartelamiento de las tropas chilenas por el conflicto con Argentina sobre el canal de Beagle] in spanish newspaper El País on 6 March 1982 (in Spanish language).]

On 2 April 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, making the chance of a following military operation against Chile after a successful "recovery" of the Falklands a distinct possibility [See also, Kalevi Jaakko Holsti, "The State, War, and the State of War" Cambridge Studies in International Relations, 1996, 271 pages, ISBN 052157790X, also in [] page 160:"Displaying the mentality of the Argentine military regime in the 1970s, as another example, there was "Plan Rosario" according to which Argentina would attack the Falkland Islands and then turn to settle the Beagle Channel problem by force. The sequence, according to the plan, could also be reversed."] .

Chile became the only major Latin American country to support Britain indirectly by providing a military and naval diversion.

Yet despite the renewal of the 1972 Treaty, the distension after ARA-Gurruchaga incident and the spy-exchanging, the mediation continued to move very slowly. Following the war Chile evinced a greater willingness to negotiate modifications to the papal proposal, but by then it had become clear that the Argentine junta, reeling from its defeat in the war, was too weak to achieve an agreement.

Cardinal Antonio Samoré died in Rome at age 77 in February 1983.

The final phase

President Raúl Alfonsín’s new government was firmly committed to resolve the conflict as quickly as possible. Based on this commitment and additional discussions, the parties were able to lay much of the groundwork for a settlement.

In April 1984, Vatican Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli asked separately the two delegations for their proposals for a final solution.

By October 1984, both countries reached a complete understanding, and the revised text of the treaty was finalized on October 18.

Chile accepted, again, the papal proposal. In Argentina, Alfonsin held a consultative referendum. The official returns showed 10,391,019 voted in favor of the proposed treaty while 2,105,663 opposed it. A margin of 82 percent to 16 percent opposed, with 2 percent casting blank or null ballots [See article [ Beagle Channel Treaty Approved in Argentina ] in USA-newspaper The New York Times on 26 November 1984] .

The Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1984 between Chile and Argentina went a long way before enacted:
* on 30 December 1984 the treaty passed the Argentine Chamber of Deputies,
* on 15 March 1985 the treaty passed the Argentine Senate,
* on 16 March 1985 was signed by representant of the President of Argentina, who was abroad,
* on 11 April 1985 the treaty passed the Chilean junta,
* on 12 April 1985 was signed by Augusto Pinochet,
* on 2 May 1985 both ministers exchanged instruments

Key factors in the result

See also

* Pope John Paul II
* Antonio Samoré
* Falklands War
* Argentina-Chile relations



* Beagle Channel Arbitration between the Republic of Argentina and the Republic of Chile, [ "Report and Decision of the Court of Arbitration"]
* Mark Laudy: [ "The Vatican Mediation of the Beagle Channel Dispute: Crisis Intervention and Forum Building"] in [ Words Over War] of Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict.
* Alejandro Luis Corbacho: [ "Predicting the Probability of War During Brinkmanship Crises: The Beagle and the Malvinas Conflicts"] , Universidad del CEMA, Argentina, Documento de Trabajo No. 244, September 2003, Spanish Language
* Karin Oellers-Frahm: [ "Der Schiedsspruch in der Beagle-Kanal-Streitigkeit"] , Berichte und Urkunden: Max-Planck-Institut für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht, German Language
* Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Chile: "Relaciones Chileno-Argentinas, La controversia del Beagle". Genf 1979, English and Spanish Language
* Andrea Wagner: "Der argentinisch-chilenische Konflikt um den Beagle-Kanal. Ein Beitrag zu den Methoden friedlicher Streiterledigung". Verlag Peter Lang, Frankfurt a.M. 1992, ISBN 3-631-43590-8, German Language
* Karl Hernekamp: "Der argentinisch-chilenisch Grenzstreit am Beagle-Kanal". Institut für Iberoamerika-Kunde, Hamburg 1980, German Language
* Andrés Cisneros y Carlos Escudé, "Historia general de las Relaciones Exteriores de la República Argentina", [ Las relaciones con Chile] , Cema, Argentina, Buenos Aires. Spanish Language
* Annegret I. Haffa: "Beagle-Konflikt und Falkland (Malwinen)-Krieg. Zur Außenpolitik der Argentinischen Militarregierung 1976-1983". Weltforum Verlag, München/Köln/London 1987, ISBN 3-8039-0348-3, German Language
* Isaac F. Rojas und Arturo Medrano: "Argentina en el Atlántico Chile en el Pacífico". Editorial Nemont, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1979, in spanischer Sprache.
* Isaac F. Rojas, "La Argentina en el Beagle y Atlántico sur 1. Parte". Editorial Diagraf, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Spanish Language
* Carlos Escudé und Andrés Cisneros: "Historia general de las relaciones exteriores de la República Argentina" ( [ here] ), in spanischer Sprache.
* Fabio Vio Valdivieso: "La mediación de su S.S. el Papa Juan Pablo II", Editorial Aconcagua, Santiago de Chile, 1984, Spanish Language
* Alberto Marín Madrid: "El arbitraje del Beagle y la actitud argentina". 1984, Editorial Moisés Garrido Urrea, id = A-1374-84 XIII, Spanisch Language
* Luis Alberto Romero, "Argentina in the twentieth Century". Pennsylvania State University Press, translated by James P. Brennan, 1994, ISBN 0-271-02191-8
* Divisionsgeneral (a.D.) Juan E. Gugliamelli: "Cuestión del Beagle. Negociación directa o diálogo de armas" (Trans.:"The Beagle-Question, direct Negotiations or Dialog of the Weapons"), in Spanish Language. (Book compiled from articles of Argentine Magazin "Estrategia", Buenos Aires Nr:49/50, enero-febrero 1978, erschienen sind.
* General Martín Antonio Balza und Mariano Grondona: "Dejo Constancia: memorias de un general argentino". Editorial Planeta, Buenos Aires 2001, ISBN 9504908136, Spanish Language
* Francisco Bulnes Serrano und Patricia Arancibia Clavel: "La Escuadra En Acción". Chile, Editorial Grijalbo, 2004, ISBN 9562582116, Spanish Language

External links

* Chilean Telecast of Televisión Nacional de Chile "Informe Especial", Theme "El año que vivimos en peligro", (sometimes in [ YouTube] ), Spanish Language
* Argentine Telecast of History Channel: "Operativo Soberanía" [ YouTube] , Spanish Language
* Special edition of [ El Mercurio] , Santiago de Chile, 2 September 2005, Spanish Language. There are Interviews with contemporary witness like Ernesto Videla, Jaime Del Valle, Helmut Brunner, Marcelo Delpech und Luciano Benjamín Menéndez. Spanish Language.
* Interview with the (later, in the nineties) Chief Commander of the Argentine Army Martín Balza in [ El Mercurio] de Santiago de Chile, 2 September 2005, Spanish Language
* Interview with Sergio Onofre Jarpa, Chile's Ambassador in Argentina 1978 to 1982 in [,0,3255_5714_1663242,00.html La Tercera] , Santiago, Chile, 17 March 2002, Spanish Language
* Interview with Argentine General Luciano Benjamín Menéndez, Commandant of the III Army Corps in [ El Mercurio] de Santiago de Chile, (from the Argentine Magazine "Somos"), Spanish Language
* Interview with Pio Laghi, Nuntius in Argentina, 1978, in [ Clarín] , Buenos Aires, 20 December 1998. Spanish Language
* Interview with the Ambassador of the United States of America in Argentina, Raúl Héctor Castro, in [ Clarín] Buenos Aires, 20 December 1998, Spanish Language
* Interview with the former Chief of the "Secretaría General del Ejército" (a Think-Tank of the Argentine Army), General Reynaldo Bignone, President of Argentina after the Falkland War, in [ Clarín] , Buenos Aires, 20 December 1998, Spanish Language
* Article "Cartas desde el Abismo", [ Clarín] , Buenos Aires, 20 December 1998, Spanish Language
* Article "El belicismo de los dictadores" [ Clarín] , Buenos Aires, 20 December 1998, Spanish Language
* Article "Beagle: historia secreta de la guerra que no fue" [ La Nación] , Buenos Aires, 12. August 1996, Spanish Language
* Article "Historia de la santa mediación" en [ Clarín] , Buenos Aires, 20 December 1998, Spanish Language
* [ Chile-Argentina Relations] , Spanish Language
* [ "Toma de decisiones políticas y la influencia de los discursos oficialistas durante el Connflicto del Beagle: Chile - Argentina 1977-1979"] , Spanish Language
* Text of the [ "Tratado de Paz y Amistad de 1984"] , Dirección de Fronteras y Límites de Chile, Spanish Language
* Text of the [ "Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1984"] , Copy to the United Nations, English Language

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