File No. 722.2315/543.

The Colombian Minister for Foreign Affairs to the American Chargé d’Affaires.


[Identical with notes transmitted on the same day to the Brazilian and Argentine chargés d’affaires.]

Mr. Chargé d’Affaires: Animated by sentiments of Pan-Americanism and desiring that peace be firmly maintained in all of our continent, your Government and that of the United States of Brazil and of the Argentine Republic offered their mediation to the Republics of Ecuador and Peru for the purpose of facilitating a just solution of the frontier dispute which exists between these two States. At that time the question had been submitted by Ecuador and Peru to the arbitration of His Majesty the King of Spain, who later manifested his wish to withdraw from pronouncing the decision; and at this juncture the mediating powers have proposed to the Governments of Ecuador and Peru to submit the dispute to the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague.

The Government of the Republic of Colombia has always manifested its most formal reserve regarding a decision which at the instigation of any State might be declared concerning territory which Colombia declares as her own and over which she maintains and is resolved to maintain all her rights of property and sovereignty.

It being the purpose of the mediating powers to obtain results which may permit the satisfactory termination of a situation which has agitated public opinion in the interested countries, I consider it opportune to state to your Government, through the honorable conduct of its representative in Colombia, that my Government thinks that the solution proposed by the mediating powers to the Governments of Ecuador and Peru will not be conducive to the end desired by them.

Certainly arbitration is a praiseworthy means of settling international difficulties provided that it does not compromise or touch the interests of a third State. Colombia can do no less than formulate the most peremptory reservation of her rights whensoever agreements are negotiated regarding territory which she considers and defends as her own. A dispute would be submitted to the Court of Arbitration at The Hague, which compromising the interests of a third State, would leave existing the same difficulties which the mediation proposes to avoid or analogous ones.

The right of Colombia to intervene in this adjustment of frontiers is so clear that it was recognized by Ecuador and Peru in the convention signed in 1894 at Lima by the plenipotentiaries of the three Republics and of which the Peruvuan Congress approved.

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On her part, Ecuador, in the treaty concluded with Colombia on November 5. 1904, under which the question of frontiers pending between both Republics was submitted to the arbitration of His Majesty the Emperor of Germany, stated that “the territory of the eastern region, from the course of the river Napo to that of the Caquetá or Yapurá was not included in the arbitration to be submitted by Ecuador and Peru to His Majesty the King of Spain.” As is known the difficulties which arose from this decision depend principally upon the absence of an agreement between the interested parties upon the matter submitted to arbitration, the respective engagements not being defined with precision.

Although Colombia sustains her rights on one and the other bank of the Putumayo as far as the Amazon, always animated by the desire of finding a solution of the frontier difficulties with her neighbors, she signed conventions with Peru in 1905 regarding modus vivendi, according to which a provisional zone of occupation in the region of the Putumayo was established, the territory lying to the north or the left bank of the said river appertaining to Colombia. Although these conventions have not been fully developed, they show that no decision can be taken to define the frontiers in this territory omitting or not considering the rights of Colombia.

The foregoing considerations justify the opinion stated by me at the beginning of this note, and I beg you to be good enough to bring it to the knowledge of your Government in order that it (the Government) may appreciate with all exactness the inefficiency of an arbitration or other agreement which does not embrance in its totality the problem of frontiers which was argued before the King of Spain in an incomplete form, since Colombia would see herself obliged to make a reservation of her rights and to continue in defense of them until an equitable and frank agreement with her neighbors could be reached, assuring to all the benefits of a sincere and stable peace.

I am, etc.,

Enrique Olaya Herrera.