Argentina’s emerging policy on the Falklands seems more a change of tone than of real substance

Last weekend saw a flurry of media speculation about the Macri government’s emerging policy towards the Falkland Islands, stemming principally from a Clarin interview with Argentina’s new representative in the UN, Martin Garcia Moritan. This repeated that Argentina wanted a broader, non-confrontational relationship with the UK in which the Falklands would be an important but not the only issue for discussion.

More tendentiously, however, Moritan harked back to the UK/Argentina negotiations prior to 1982, when ideas of condominium (1974) and of lease-back (1980) were discussed. He also pointed up the The 1971 Communications Agreement  click here, commenting that ‘if all those actions of 1971 had been maintained, the Argentine flag would fly over the Islands today’. Clarin revealingly quoted the Argentine Foreign Minister of the time as saying: ‘It [condominium] must be accepted. Once we have put a foot in the Falklands, nobody will be able to get us out and, after time, we will have full sovereignty.’

The Argentine Foreign Minister, Susan Malcorra, in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, acknowledged that confidence-building would be for the long haul. The issue could not be solved overnight – it had deep roots on both sides - but Argentina wanted to keep the dialogue open with the UK in order ‘to work on a potential solution to this long-standing issue’. It was, she said, a matter ‘very, very close to the hearts of Argentinians’.

Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly Member, Mike Summers, MLA, reacted to the Clarin article, saying that ideas of leaseback and shared sovereignty were not new; they had not been acceptable at the time and would not be now. Argentina’s sovereignty claim ignored the human rights of the Falkland Islanders and the notion that Argentina could discuss the future of the people of the Falkland Islands with the UK alone as a bilateral issue was no longer valid. The Falkland Islands were now, he said, a ‘thriving, self-sufficient, self-governing democracy…We are not a commodity to be traded between two nations. We are a people; we have a home; and we have the universally respected human right to determine our own political future.’ Any decision about the sovereignty of the Islands had absolutely to include the Falkland Islanders. Anything else ‘smacked of colonialism’. It was time, he said, to recognise the so-called ‘Falkland Islands Question’ for what it was – a question of basic human rights.

Comment:

Well said, Mike Summers! There can be little progress in restoring trust between Argentina and the Falkland Islanders unless Argentina sets aside its sovereignty claim to the Falklands. Gestures, such as indicating that Argentine representatives will now shake hands with Falkland Islanders at the UN, don’t mean much. It is clear that the Argentine Government has yet to develop its strategy on the Falklands. The new department in the Argentine Foreign Ministry has yet to be set up and Argentina’s Ambassador to the UK, Carlos Sersale, is likely to focus initially on opportunities for business investment and trade with the UK. If there is to be dialogue, however, at least it will be courteous and not the war of words that was symptomatic of the Kirchner regime.