Chile's President Gabriel Boric on Monday vowed to resolve the ongoing conflict with the indigenous Mapuche people through "dialogue," while denying that any demands could call into question Argentina's territorial integrity.
"This is not an issue that has to do with Argentina's territorial sovereignty, it is an issue – and one we have to take charge of – of a conflict between the Chilean state and the Mapuche nation. And we are not going to ignore that," said the leftist leader during a press conference in Buenos Aires.
"We have decided on the path of dialogue, and this dialogue will annoy many, those who believe that things can be achieved through violence or confrontation," he said.
Boric's remarks come after his interior minister, Izkia Siches, caused a stir in Argentina by mentioning the term ‘Wallmapu,’ which refers to the territories inhabited by the Mapuche on both sides of the Chilean-Argentine border.
"There has been an attempt to stir up controversy. Neither of us has questioned the territorial sovereignty of our respective countries and we have no outstanding issues in this regard," said Boric, referring to talks with Argentine President Alberto Fernández.
For his part, Argentina’s Peronist leader denied he felt any unease over the minister's statements.
"For us, those words generated absolutely no concern, the meaning of those statements was clear," said Fernández.
Boric recently ordered the withdrawal of Chilean military forces put in place last October in the Araucanía and Biobío regions, around 600 kilometres south of Santiago, on the orders from his predecessor in office, Sebastián Piñera, in order to stop arson attacks attributed to radical Mapuche groups.
In mid-March an attempt by Siches to hold talks with Mapuches in the conflict zone in Araucanía failed after the minister was greeted with gunfire.
Over the past decade Chile has seen an escalation of violence and arson attacks amid a lack of resolution of Mapuche demands, the country's largest ethnic group and one that has seen its ancestral lands shrink.