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Macri’s claims over Malvinas talks denied by Malcorra

President Mauricio Macri addresses the United Nations General Assembly yesterday
President Mauricio Macri addresses the United Nations General Assembly yesterday
President Mauricio Macri addresses the United Nations General Assembly yesterday
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Foreign minister backtracks on comments that UK PM has agreed to talks on sovereignty

Mauricio Macri stirred controversy both inside and outside the government yesterday after telling journalists in New York that British Prime Minister Theresa May had agreed to a discussion over the sovereignty of the Malvinas Islands. It appeared to be a diplomatic feather in the cap for the president — but barely an hour later, Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra felt the need to walk back the comments.

Accoring to the president, he and May spoke briefly on the sidelines of the 71st United Nations General Assembly yesterday — their first meeting after much speculation that a tête-à-tête was imminent. Soon afterwards, the president said that he had told the UK prime minister that he “was ready to start an open dialogue that, of course, includes the issue of the sovereignty of the islands.” Asked what May said in response, the president that said “she said that well, yes, that we should start. These things take years, but it is important that we start. And she agreed.”

Malcorra, however, was less enthusiastic. Shortly after the president’s remarks became known, she clarified that though the matter of sovereignty is a priority for Argentina,“to say that the issue is on the table, and that we have agreed to advance on this issue — there is long way to go.”

Macri had previously mentioned that that there was a chance that he and May might meet in the future to discuss bilateral issues, but that the “there is a possibility to have more specific topics in the multiple issues that we have, among which is the issue of the Malvinas which for us is a priority.”

Malcorra sought to compare the brief May-Macri meeting with the more formal encounter that Macri had her with her predecessor, David Cameron, at Davos earlier this year, in which the president declared: “Let us talk and put all the issues on the table, as with any mature link with the world and which also must take happen with the United Kingdom.”

Earlier, Macri had called for an amicable solution to the sovereignty dispute during his first address to the General Asssembly as president, naming the United Kingdom in his address in New York.

Macri’s Let’s Change (Cambiemos) administration has recently come under fire from various opposition parties for agreeing to a rapprochement with the United Kingdom, despite both nations’ approach to the disputed archipelago.

Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra and UK Foreign Office Minister for Europe and the Americas Sir Alan Duncan recently agreed to a joint statement which called for a greater number of flights from the mainland to the islands that stop in Argentina in exchange for a lifting of economic restrictions placed by Buenos Aires on foreign exploitation of the natural resources close to the islands.

“Dialogue and the peaceful solutions to controversy are the cornerstones of Argentina’s foreign policy as a democracy. That is why I am reiterating our call for dialogue with the United Kingdom, as stipulated by so many resolutions from this organization, to amicably solve the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, the South Georgia Islands and the South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas,” he said.

Former representatives of Argentina won multiple votes at the UN’s Special Committee on Decolonization over resolutions which called on the UK to enter into bilateral negotiations with Argentina over the sovereignty dispute.

“We have shown interest in progressing in our bilateral relationship, which can and must be mutually beneficial. That’s why we trust that a definitive solution for this prolonged discussion will be possible,” Macri said, laying out the less confrontational approach his administration favours, in comparison to that of his immediate predecessor, former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Out with the old,

in with the new

Keeping to a short, bullet-pointed list of topics, which included the government’s commitments to “Zero Poverty” and the “fight against drug-trafficking,” Macri’s speech stayed comfortably within the 15-minute time window allocated to speakers at the UNGA, and was characterized by the calm delivery that he cultivated en-route to being elected president in November last year.

As such it stood in direct contrast to the previous addresses given by Fernández de Kirchner, who regularly extended her time at the podium and raised controversial issues during her speeches, including accusing the US of harbouring former fugitive spy Ricardo “Jaime” Stiuso in her final address at the UN last year.

While Fernández de Kirchner frequently raised existing points of tension between Argentina and other member states such as the US, Macri dropped this approach explicitly.

“The quality of leadership in the world is based on an ability to build bridges and create trust in the global community,” Macri said. “Argentines have chosen this path for themselves,” he added in reference to his electoral victory last year.

The president also emphasized his government’s own change of approach in contrast to that of his predecessors, saying that the Let’s Change administration’s favouring of a liberal, market-friendly economic policy would benefit Argentine citizens and the global community alike.

“We have returned to international credit markets and many corporations have shown that they have faith in Argentina. Every day there is more and more investment which will lead to jobs and greater opportunities for all,” he said.

Argentina and the world

In his speech Macri also highlighted Argentina’s commitment to helping the international community address pertinent global issues including climate change and the refugee crisis.

Having presented the ratification of the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, which was approved overwhelmingly by Argentine lawmakers recently, Macri said that the country was “proud” to be one of the first to approve the deal.

“Climate change is the greatest challenge facing human kind. And it is only being aware of this that we can make progress without jeopardizing our future and the future of our children. In Argentina, we are betting ambitiously on renewable energy,” he said in relation to the government’s stated aim to go “even further” than the Paris Climate targets.

Macri also tabled Argentina’s commitment, established by Fernández de Kirchner, to accept 3,000 Syrian refugees fleeing the ongoing civil war in that country, saying that his administration would attempt to go even further.

“A year ago we made a commitment to not leave anyone behind. The reality calls on us to do more ... I’d like to announce that we are going to accept even more refugees from Syria and neighbouring countries, favouring families with children,” he said.

To what extent the government would accept “even more” refugees as per Macri’s announcement remained unclear.

As the Herald reported on Monday, the Let’s Change administration is facing mounting criticism from humanitarian NGOs over the slow pace at which refugees from the middle east are being accepted and resettled in Argentina, with the previous quota of accepting 3,000 Syrian refugees still a distant goal.

—Herald with Télam

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