Argentina’s government has confirmed that the Hamas terrorist group is holding 21 of its citizens hostage.
The Foreign Ministry in Buenos Aires recently intensified its dialogue with countries in the Middle East region to secure the release of the captives in the Gaza Strip, local news agencies said on Wednesday.
They were all kidnapped during the October 7 attack on Israel by the Palestinian terrorist organisation.
Nine Argentines are reported to have been murdered by Hamas militants in that attack and its immediate aftermath.
Interpol officials in both Argentina and Israel are collaborating with Qatar on the issue. The Qatari government has contact with Hamas and its mediation permitted the release of two hostages of United States origin last weekend.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohamed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani is the interlocutor working with Argentine authorities. Egyptian and Turkish officials who also have links with the Palestinian terrorist grouping, as well as the Red Cross, which is in charge of looking after the safety of the 220 abducted hostages of Israeli and other nationalities held in Gaza, are also involved in the communications.
Argentina’s links with Qatar extend to the economic sphere. Last August Economy Minister Sergio Massa borrowed the equivalent of US$775 million in special drawing rights to boost the Central Bank’s drooping reserves.
The diplomatic authorities of both countries have avoided identifying the 21 Argentine hostages for security reasons, government officials said.
The possibility of Argentina’s government negotiating with the Hamas terrorist organisation for the release of the hostages triggered a crossfire among the foreign policy spokespersons of the main presidential candidates.
Commenting on such rumours a few days ago, PRO’s Federico Pinedo, who coordinated Patricia Bullrich’s foreign policy teams, declared that in the fight against terrorism "you cannot send out the wrong signals."
"There has been a rumour recently that the government is thinking of negotiating with a terrorist organisation for the release of the hostages. I suppose that must be a lie – governments negotiate with governments, not with terrorist organisations," underlined the ex-senator who was briefly president in late 2015.
Participating in a debate organised by CARI (Consejo Argentino para las Relaciones Internacionales), the Organisation of Ibero-American States (OEI in its Spanish acronym) and FLACSO (Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales), Pinedo considered that the Hamas attack on Israel "is an issue which defines values and stances," adding: "We cannot leave any doubts over this issue."
Economist Diana Mondino, representing La Libertad Avanza, expressed: "I enormously highlight this issue of negotiating with Hamas, not only because it is a terrorist organisation but because a country negotiates with other countries, a state negotiates with other states, a company negotiates with other companies but never with a terrorist organisation."
Unión por la Patria, represented by the diplomat Gustavo Martínez Pandiani, recalled that "in the presidential debate, the only candidate who not only condemned Hamas but announced that as from December 11 he would include Hamas in the list of terrorist organisations was Sergio Massa."
Some days ago a Foreign Ministry communiqué signed by Santiago Cafiero had demanded from Hamás "the immediate release of the hostages of all nationalities.”