In an important diplomatic gesture underlining the improved ties between two nations once at war, Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie flew to London this week to finalise the details of Prime Minister Theresa May’s scheduled visit to Argentina.
Faurie, who was accompanied by Argentina’s Ambassador to London Carlos Sersale, met with his British counterpart Jeremy Hunt and the UK Minister of State for Europe and the Americas Alan Duncan. The two sides discussed “the most relevant issues of a broad bilateral agenda” and engaged in a “substantive and constructive dialogue,” a statement read.
High on the agenda was the discussion of details of Prime Minister May’s scheduled visit to Argentina for the G20 Leaders Summit at the end of November.
Faurie described that trip as “very important” for the two nations and sources told Noticias Argentinas that it would have the character of a “state visit.” According to reports from the news agency, the government intends to expand the British prime minister’s agenda beyond the activities of the G20 Leaders Summit, in order to underline how relations between Downing Street and the Casa Rosada have improved since President Mauricio Macri took office.
Prime Minister May is expected to meet with President Macri during her time in Argentina. Unconfirmed reports say the duo may even hold a “working breakfast” on Saturday, December 1 – the second day of the G20 Leaders Summit.
Coming some 36 years after the sides faced-off in the South Atlantic War over the disputed Malvinas (Falklands) Islands, May’s scheduled visit would be the first by a sitting British prime minister to the Argentine capital since the war.
Former prime minister Tony Blair was the last PM to set foot on Argentine soil, when he met then-president Fernando de la Rúa in Puerto Iguazú, Misiones province, back in 2001. He did not spend time in Buenos Aires.
Much of Faurie’s talks reportedly centred on the islands, which Argentina continues to say is its sovereign territory.
The war between the two nations began when troops dispatched by dictator Leopoldo Galtieri occupied the archipelago. A British expeditionary force was sent to the islands and recaptured them. In all, the war claimed the lives of 649 Argentines and 255 British soldiers.
Britain refuses to negotiate the status of the islands, as demanded by Argentina. Nearly 3,000 people living on the islands voted in a referendum in 2013 to remain part of Britain.
One of the points under discussion during this week’s visit was attempts to improve air connections to the islands. At present, LATAM airlines is the only firm that connects the archipelago with Argentina, via a flight that departs from the Chilean city of Punta Arenas, with a stop once a month at Río Gallegos.
Both sides have discussed improved ties, with airlines from Brazil, Chile and Uruguay interested in offering additional flights with stopovers in Argentina. The reported aim is to establish a new weekly flight from one of those countries that would make a stopover in Argentina.
“Keeping in mind the historical differences on the question of the Malvinas Islands, the Argentine government is continuing to engage in a substantive and constructive dialogue with the United Kingdom and, in that context, both foreign ministers agreed to continue working to achieve an understanding regarding flights that will allow a greater connection between the mainland and the islands,” the Palacio San Martín said in a statement.
In conversation with a reporter from the Clarín newspaper, Faurie said he was in favour of “generating a greater link” with the Kelpers, saying he wanted them to feel like they could travel to Argentina for reasons such as education, healthcare and trade.
“We have a relationship with the British government, which includes a dialogue with those who live on the islands. Our relationship creates a greater link between the mainland and the islands,” he told the Argentine daily.
Faurie confirmed both parties were studying opportunities to increase flights to the island.
“Today the bilateral agenda is in terms of creating confidence, it has to do with economic and commercial integration and the participation of British investment in the opportunities offered by Argentina in terms of energy, infrastructure, mining, tourism and in the agricultural sector,” he added.
The foreign minister underlined that the UK offered “important trade opportunities for all the countries of the Mercosur,” though he added that Buenos Aires would have to “analyse the conditions” and terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union.
On Thursday, Faurie also participated in an event at Chatham House, the headquarters of the Royal Institute of International Affairs think-tank, called “Economic, political and social change in Latin America.”
‘PROBABLE’ TRUMP-XI MEETING IN BA.
US President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will “probably” meet at the G20 Leaders Summit next month, a US official said this week. “The presidents will probably meet at the G20 in Buenos Aires, Argentina,” Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on the Fox News Sunday programme. “Other than that, nothing I can say.” He added that trade talks with China – with each side imposing a mounting series of tariffs on the other – had so far been “unsatisfactory.” On the same channel, China’s ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, said Washington described talks as “very confusing.”