Argentina’s Foreign Affairs Minister Susana Malcorra has denied that the UK agreed to start dialogue over the sovereignty of the Falklands/Malvinas Islands, backtracking on earlier claims made by President Mauricio Macri.
On the day of his first speech at the UN General Assembly, Macri told media in New York that British Prime Minister Theresa May had informally agreed on the need to start a comprehensive dialogue that included the sovereignty of the South Atlantic islands.
“I crossed paths with the British prime minister at lunch. I told her I was ready to start an open dialogue, which of course includes the sovereignty of the islands,” said Macri.
Asked what May’s response was, Macri added: “She said that yes, we should begin talking. These things take years, but the important point is that we start. And she agrees.”
Later in the day Malcorra sought to ease expectations, stating: “Of course, the prime minister said they could meet, but they didn’t talk about a road map or the next steps.”
While repeating that the sovereignty issue is a priority for Argentina, Malcorra acknowledged that “there is a big leap to go from that to saying that the issue is on the table, that we’ve agreed to advance on the matter.”
Faced with more questions after Macri reaffirmed his encounter with May this morning, Malcorra said she understood the prime minister’s answer as “a polite reaction over the notion of starting an agenda.”
“To be frank, I don’t believe she meant ‘yes, I subscribe to that agenda and the sovereignty matter will be the first issue’, as that is unthinkable,” said the foreign affairs minister.
Neither Prime Minister May nor the British foreign office has issued a statement on the exchange.
[Update: A source from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office told La Nación that “the sovereignty issue was never discussed in the informal meeting that May and Macri had in New York, and so there could not have been an expression from Great Britain in that regard.”]
The issue of sovereignty over the Falklands/Malvinas Island resurfaced last week after the UK and Argentina released a joint communique outlining several areas of “mutual cooperation”, including in developing fishing and oil exploration.
The statement drew criticism from the opposition, which argued that economic concessions would undermine Argentina’s sovereignty claim in the future.
The government has defended the statement, arguing that no agreements have yet been made and highlighting the potential benefits of closer relations with London.
It also stated that the sovereignty issue remains the priority for the Argentine government, in accordance with the country’s national constitution.