Britain is facing a diplomatic dilemma since it seems quite clear that the US administration of Barack Obama favours the Argentine candidate and current foreign affairs minister Susana Malcorra as the next UN Secretary General, according to an article published on the Sunday edition of The Telegraph and written by Peter Foster, Europe editor and Harriet Alexander, New York editor.
Ms Malcorra, 61, is understood to have received top-level backing from both the White House and Susan Rice, national security adviser to Barack Obama, which means a diplomatic dilemma given the long-running dispute over the Falkland Islands which both Argentina and the UN say must be “decolonised” and returned to Argentina.
The article points out that President Barack Obama is said to have been won over by arguments in Ms Malcorra’s favour from his Argentine counterpart Mauricio Macri on a visit to Buenos Aires in March that was widely seen as an attempt to re-set US-Argentine relations.
This is hard to believe since Malcorra has a long experience as US staff, her last post was cabinet chief to Ban Ki-moon and to aspire to the post she needs in her CV a political chapter in her own country, which she lacked, so the 'plot' did not emerge when the Macri administration in on its sixth month.
Furthermore the Obama visit when a new administration was only four/months in office, and the quick deal to overcome the billions of dollars pending dispute with investment funds, after years of litigation, and this time with sponsoring from US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, means this is not an overnight understanding, rather the contrary, and so is the fact Malcorra had 'accepted' to become foreign minister.
According to The Telegraph, Malcorra's entry in the contest was being enthusiastically supported by Ms Rice who described herself as a “friend” of the Argentine minister at a dinner in 2011.
The two women are understood to have developed a strong working relationship from 2009-2012 when Ms Rice was the US Ambassador to the UN, and Malcorra was working as a UN under-secretary general for field support for peacekeeping missions.
On the other hand Britain has been one of the most vociferous of all countries in calling for a woman to head up the UN, for the first time in its 70 year history.
Likewise, and despite the so-called US/UK 'special relationship', London has long bristled over Washington’s conspicuous failure to back the Falkland islanders' right to self-determination even after a 2013 referendum in which 99.8% of Islanders voted in favour of remaining a British Overseas Territory.
In effect a 2014 House of Commons inquiry called the US position 'disappointing, with Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the British ambassador to Washington until 2012 admitting the Obama White House position was “not what we wanted”.
'However US backing for Malcorra is understood in part to be a move to block the Bulgarian candidate, Irina Bokova, the current director-general of UNESCO, who is favoured by the Russians
It’s a really tough call for the UK,” said one diplomat. “There is obvious concern at having someone heading up the UN who firmly believes that the Falklands should belong to Argentina. “But at the same time, Downing Street doesn’t want to appear petty by blocking an otherwise excellent candidate, just for her country’s claim.”
Nine candidates have already made their pitches for the job, addressing the General Assembly in April in the first ever public interview process for the role, but no obvious front-runner emerged.
On Tuesday Susana Malcorra and Miroslav Lajcak, Slovakia’s foreign minister, will present their vision in a set of hustings that will now be closely watched, according to diplomatic sources in New York, underlines The Telegraph piece.
In her latest statements referred to the Falklands and the dispute with the UK, Malcorra has argued that bilateral relations with London are 80% good and 20% bad, and it is clear why the 20%.
Ms Malcorra has said that she sees “no incompatibility” with her position on the Falklands question and the role of being UN secretary-general, which will be vacated by Ban Ki-moon on December 31.
British diplomacy has kept a low profile on the issue so far saying it is too soon to comment but Falkland Islanders have raised questions over whether a UN secretary-general could be drawn from the foreign ministry of a country that appeared to reject the principle of self-determination.
“The role of UN Secretary General as a very important one, and as a country we believe that the holder of the role will need to understand and apply the Charter of the United Nations,” MLA Michael Poole, the chair of the Legislative Assembly, is quoted by the Telegraph via email
“A key tenet of this Charter is the principle of self-determination and we hope that any and all candidates will reflect on this issue when formal campaigning begins”.