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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Op Ed on "Peru and Ecuador"
For publication in Diario Las Americas, Miami
October 31, 1998

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Peru and Ecuador

On October 26 Peru and Ecuador took a major step forward to a more peaceful and prosperous future when President Fujimori and President Mahuad signed an agreement that ended over fifty years of border strife. The agreement they signed was notable for many reasons. The signing resolved the most dangerous border dispute extant in Latin America. In 1941, 1981 and 1995 these two neighbors engaged in armed conflict along their border. These clashes have caused hundreds of casualties, disrupted the economic and diplomatic relations of both countries, and distracted attention from the serious social problems afflicting people on both sides of the border. The distrust that was sowed between these two brother nations also hindered the sort of free and open trade that is the key to prosperity in the modern world.

The agreement was also notable for the creative diplomacy behind it. Six decades of conflict and suspicion had left what was considered by many an intractable problem. The four guarantor nations of the Rio Protocol of 1942, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and the United States, worked together with the diplomats of Ecuador and Peru to shape a comprehensive agreement. For 3 1/2 years this group of hemispheric diplomats worked tirelessly to defend international law, respect the sovereign rights of both nations, and develop common goals that would ensure a lasting peace. The comprehensive agreement that was reached not only resolved the question of fixing the land border, but established mechanisms to guarantee Ecuador’s access to the Amazon, to defuse security concerns, and to open their common border to trade and development that will improve the lives of people on both sides. The site of the most intense combat will become adjacent demilitarized parks that will preserve the unique biodiversity of that remote jungle region.

The United States was deeply involved in these negotiations from the beginning. Upon the outbreak of hostilities in 1995, the United States worked diligently with its fellow guarantors to end the fighting, separate over 5,000 troops, create a demilitarized zone along the disputed border, and launch direct talks to resolve the dispute. While the fighting was still going on, President Clinton named Ambassador Luigi Einaudi, the former US representative to the OAS, as his special envoy for the crisis. The US military also played a significant role in ending the fighting. US and guarantor troops formed the Military Observer Mission Ecuador-Peru (MOMEP) to maintain the cease-fire and separate the two armed forces. They successfully accomplished this and quickly integrated members of the Ecuadorian and Peruvian militaries into the observer mission. What was truly unique about this observer mission was that its expenses were paid for by the two antagonists, who realized it was cheaper to pay the price of peace than the costs of war.

This was not the first time that the US had become involved in dealing with this conflict. US efforts to bring peace to these two countries date back to their 1941 conflict and the Rio Protocol that ended it. It is a little known fact that over the years 17 Americans have died in support of efforts to bring peace to these two countries. In 1947, in two separate accidents, fourteen American airmen died while engaged in aerial photomapping of the Ecuador-Peru border. In 1981, another three American soldiers disappeared while flying a mission in support of a cease-fire. They are a permanent reminder of American dedication to bringing peace to the region.

US diplomats in Ecuador and Peru also used the tools of public diplomacy to encourage people-to-people diplomacy between the two conflictive countries. For the first time in sixty years Ecuadorian and Peruvian academics, journalists, clergy, activists and ordinary citizens reached out across the border in a systematic way to break down walls of suspicion. Myths and fears that had been enshrined in their countries’ histories were challenged for the first time, and an atmosphere created that allowed negotiators to boldly seek the path of peace.

Though there were times when the talks threatened to break down, when even renewed conflict seemed a possibility, the diplomats on all sides, with the invaluable help of MOMEP, managed to keep things going. In the end, the courageous personal diplomacy of President Fujimori and President Mahaud, with the support of the Guarantor Presidents, and the personal intervention of President Clinton overcame the final obstacles. Diplomatic perseverance was rewarded with an agreement that should bring lasting peace to these two countries. As the benefits of peace become even more obvious to the peoples of Ecuador and Peru, the natural ties of culture, language and history will make renewed conflict unthinkable.

This agreement exemplifies the new spirit of cooperation and integration that exists in our hemisphere. Diplomats from six nations, with the support of the OAS, worked steadily for over three years to find the solution to this enduring problem. Our representatives at the Brasilia signing, Special Representative to the President, Thomas Mclarty, Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs, Peter Romero, and Special Envoy Luigi Einaudi had been long involved in working with their Latin American colleagues to advance the cause of peace in these two countries. Now Ecuador and Peru can join the rest of Latin America in confronting the problems that jointly afflict them; problems such as economic development, health, preserving the environment, and strengthening democracy and the rule of law. As the United States worked together with its neighbors to resolve this problem, so shall we work together to create a better future for the children of this hemisphere.

[End of Document]

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