The Future of the Triangle

In 2014, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ended the maritime conflict between Chile and Peru. In a Solomonic way, they divided the disputed sea between the two countries. However, the Court's ruling left one point unresolved: the Terrestrial Triangle.

In 1929 the definitive boundary treaty between Peru and Chile was signed, almost 50 years after the Salitre War. The treaty provided that the border ‘will start from a point on the coast to be called “Concordia”, ten kilometers north of the Lluta river bridge…’ It seemed very simple, but the problem was determining where the point Concordia was.

Although there were discussions, it was finally decided to put the landmark of the ‘Concordia’ point as close to the sea as possible, but safe from being destroyed by the Pacific Ocean waters. So they placed it 180 meters from the point, in a straight line from the sea, following the parallel of the ‘Concordia’ point.

However, Chile and Peru have disputed it ever since, as the treaty indicates that the limit begins at sea, and obviously the milestone could not be on the coast. The problem would be quite minor, if it weren’t for the fact that the maritime border started at that point.
So the terrestrial triangle of only four hectares generated a problem of 70,000 square kilometers in dispute of maritime territory. That is roughly the size of Ireland.

Chile and Peru went to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where the problem of the maritime territory was settled. But the court did not explicitly say what should happen with the terrestrial triangle, since the 1929 treaty regulates everything related to the terrestrial territory itself.

Specifically, the 1929 treaty states that all differences will be resolved by the President of the United States. So Chile and Peru can solve their problem by seeking the advice of Donald Trump.

Instead, each country has opted for different strategies.

Peru announced that it would build apartments for retired military personnel. However the triangle is basically mere sand in the desert, without water and exposed to any natural disaster. Additionally, there are still many antipersonnel mines on the territory. So it is not surprising that, despite of the promise of free housing, no one has decided to move there.

Chile has complained, but has not made any concrete proposal. However, architecture professors and students from the prestigious Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile have proposed eliminating the triangle - scooping out the sand and literally creating a bi-national beach, ending the conflict.

Francisco Bustamante Ugarte is a law student from Quillota, Chile. This article was published in Spanish on the website Fronteras.