Chile rejects Bolivia call for talks on sea access

Aymara indigenous people walk along the Silala springs, in southwestern Bolivia, 4 km away from the border with Chile, on March 29, 2016 (AFP Photo/Aizar Raldes) (AFP/File)

Santiago (AFP) - Chile on Wednesday submitted legal papers to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking to slap down persistent arguments from its landlocked neighbor Bolivia for negotiations on sea access.

Salvador's response to a suit started by Bolivia set out "legal and historical" grounds why talks on the issue should not happen, Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz said in a voice recording made available to reporters.

"There exists no obligation to negotiate," he said.

Under an agreement by both sides, the substance of the submission was not divulged.

Bolivia lost its access to the sea to Chile in the War of the Pacific in the 19th century, and has stepped up efforts to get it back under President Evo Morales.

Relations remain frosty between the two countries, which have no formal diplomatic relations since 1978.

Recently, Chile opened a new case before the Hague-based ICJ over a disputed water course originating in Bolivia.

Morales has threatened to reduce the flow from the Silala, which Bolivia considers a spring artificially diverted to flow over the border into Chile's parched Atacama desert. He wants to charge fees for use of its water.

Chile is asking the ICJ to declare the water body an "international river" to which it has rights, but Bolivia has promised to countersue over the claim.