UK/Argentina: More positive outlook from Foreign Ministers’ meeting

The mood music during the bilateral meeting between the UK Foreign Secretary and Argentina’s new Foreign Minister on 12 May was significantly warmer and more positive than would have been possible under the Kirchner regime. Argentina wants to put relations with the UK onto a broader footing rather than focussing solely on the Falklands. Argentine sovereignty remains nevertheless an essential aim for them, even though the new Argentine Government accepts that the way towards that ‘inevitable reality’ will be ‘long and tortuous’.

The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, hosted a meeting in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) with Susana Malcorra, the new Argentine Foreign Minister,[1] who was in London to attend the Anti-Corruption Summit. She was accompanied by President Macri’s Strategic Affairs Secretary, Fulvio Pompeio, and by the Argentine Ambassador to the UK, Carlos Sersale di Cerisano. Hugo Swire, the FCO Minister of State responsible for UK relations with South American countries, also attended.

The Foreign Secretary made it clear that the UK’s position on the Falkland Islands remained unchanged. The 2013 referendum had confirmed, almost unanimously, the Falkland Islanders’ wish that the Falkland Islands should remain a UK Overseas Territory.

Both sides agreed to disagree on the Falkland Islands but accepted that the issue should not be an obstacle to the development of a wider, more positive agenda for improved bilateral relations between the UK and Argentina. Topics discussed included increased trade and investment, infrastructural support, help in combating the illegal drugs trade, crime and corruption, and co-operation in science and technology.

Commenting afterwards, Susana Malcorra said that they wanted a more flexible relationship with the Islanders and were examining the options to start the process, possibly based initially on humanitarian considerations. These might include allowing medical emergencies to be treated in Argentina and trade in foodstuffs to be opened up, as well as providing educational opportunities in Argentina for Islander students. In the longer term, this might progress towards co-operation on oil exploration and maritime business opportunities. Theirs would be a gradualist approach: they did not wish to replicate the mistakes of the Kirchner regime or the nonsenses of Menem and Di Tella.

The Falkland Islands Government (FIG) issued a statement indicating that they had been aware of the meeting and had been consulted beforehand about Falkland Islands-related issues. The statement said that FIG wanted "a positive and respectful relationship with all countries of South America and would be willing to explore potential co-operation with the Government of Argentina in areas of mutual interest”. No plans for follow-up meetings, however, have yet been proposed or agreed.

 

[1] President Macri has put her name forward as a candidate to succeed UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon (though others like former New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, are also standing).