Argentine president Cristina Fernandez is scheduled to travel to Chile next week to meet with her peer Sebastian Piñera and the Falklands issue expected to outstand in the bilateral agenda, particularly air links with the Islands.
The visit of the Argentine president to Chile has been twice suspended, first on agenda problems and secondly because of Cristina Fernandez thyroid operation last January.
At the meeting next Thursday 15 March, the latest proposal by Cristina Fernandez to have three weekly direct flights to the Falklands, from Buenos Aires, in Aerolineas Argentinas, basically replacing the current Lan Chile link through Punta Arenas, is expected to be addressed.
Last September before the UN General Assembly the Argentine president announced that if the UK did not abide by UN resolutions and started Falklands sovereignty negotiations she would consider banning air space for the Lan Chile link, an issue which apparently had been addressed previously and informally with President Piñera in New York.
However last week Cristina Fernandez announced that Argentina would request a review of the 1999 three-sides agreement (Argentina, UK and Falklands) which includes the air link with Chile, but at the same time made the Aerolineas Argentinas proposal.
The UK has responded that air links with the Falklands is an issue for the Islanders to decide and Governor Nigel Haywood said that in the Falklands everybody is very satisfied and happy with the Lan Chile weekly flight, which once a month calls at Rio Gallegos, Argentina.
The change in attitude from the Argentine government regarding the Falklands issue and outside links, according to Mercosur diplomatic sources is born out of the intent to neutralize the ‘economic blockade’ claims by the Falklands and the UK, and which Mercosur members are not prepared to support. Last December Mercosur members agreed in Montevideo to bar from the region’s ports all Falklands’ flagged vessels.
“This is a clear expression that the interest of Argentina is not to harm any community, but to defend our rights”, said President Cristina Fernandez.
Other issues in the bilateral agenda include trade and Argentina’s latest restrictions or slowing down of the influx of imports which has had a significant impact in neighbouring countries, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile.
Likewise Chile has requested the extradition from Argentina of a former guerrilla, Galvarino Sergio Apablaza, allegedly involved in the killing of a Senator, Jaime Guzman and the kidnapping for ransom of businessman Christian Edwards back in 1991. The former guerrilla lives in Buenos Aires having been granted political asylum in 2010. His wife holds an important job in the government of Cristina Fernandez.
Another sensitive issue is that of a former Argentine magistrate, Otilio Romano living in Chile and who is accused of human rights abuses in Argentina.