Three days of Anglo-Argentine talks over co-operation on oil exploration have ended in London with serious differences over interpretation of the 1995 Agreement negotiated with the previous Menem Government. Both sides left the talks promising to consider how these difficulties may be overcome to allow co-operation to proceed. They will meet again at a date to be fixed.
A joint Press statement by the South West Atlantic Hydrocarbons Commission drew attention to what it called "divergent interpretations" of the 1995 Declaration in its fifth and final paragraph which declared: "The Joint Commission discussed co-operation on the promotion of the exploration for and exploitation of hydrocarbons in maritime areas of the South West Atlantic subject to a controversy on sovereignty and jurisdiction, and the existing divergent interpretations in relation to some aspects of the 1995 Joint Declaration. Both delegations agreed to reflect further on this issue and on how future co-operation might best be carried forward. They agreed to resume consideration at a future meeting".
Neither side would elaborate on what this obscure diplomatic phraseology means. This was the eighth meeting of the Joint Commission but the first involving a delegation representing the new De La Rua Government in Buenos Aires. Elements of the De La Rua Government have repeatedly made clear their dislike of the 1995 Declaration which set up the Joint Commission to discuss the possibility of co-operation in exploration in the Special Area.
The Press Statement from this latest meeting indicates that little progress was made in resolving what the British Foreign Office admits are difficulties on a complex issue. But officials rejected any suggestion of a row. And there is scope for wide agreement on the scientific, technological and environmental issues posed by the search for and exploitation of oil in this area.
It was the first time that the new Director of the Americas at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mr Richard Wilkinson, has taken part. He recently succeeded Mr Peter Westmacott who has been promoted since his involvement in the oil talks.
The Press Statement was noticeably brief saying very little to reflect three days of intensive talks -- five paragraphs in total, only three of which focused on the discussions themselves. The first four paragraphs said:
"1. The eighth meeting of the South West Atlantic Hydrocarbons Commission took place on July 27. The British delegation was led by Mr Richard Wilkinson, Director of the Americas, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Argenti