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Montevideo, April 19th 2019 - 04:36 UTC

C. Kirchner invited to London; Falklands unofficial talks?

Friday, February 8th 2008 - 20:00 UTC
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Pte. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner Pte. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is ready to visit London next April although Buenos Aires press reports indicate that the Kirchner administration would like to see advances in the Malvinas war next of kin humanitarian visit to the Falklands Islands for the inauguration of the Argentine cemetery, before the final decision is taken.

The invitation to the Forum of Progressive Leaders was extended by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown as chairman of the Labor Party that is hosting the meeting on April 4/5 under the banner of "Social inclusion and globalization". The British embassy in Buenos Aires underlined that the Foreign Office is not involved in the event. "It's an invitation not from the British government but from the leader of the ruling party", said Argentine diplomatic sources. Actually the invitation is a repeat of the 2003 event --a few weeks after Nestor Kirchner became Argentine president--, when then PM Tony Blair invited world Socialist leaders (including Chile's Ricardo Lagos and Brazil's Lula da Silva) to London for a similar forum. However the Argentine press also points out that the coming event will take place at a "sensitive" date, just two days after the 26th anniversary of the April 2nd landing and Malvinas occupation by the Argentine military dictatorship which triggered the South Atlantic conflict. Apparently two ministers revealed that the invitation is under consideration by the staff that prepares the president's agenda and it all looks as if the reply will be positive since Argentina and Mrs. Kirchner "have quite a bit to say about social inclusion and the issue figures high in the official agenda of President Cristina Fernandez". Besides it would be a "good opportunity" to help "de-freeze" UK-Argentine relations following last year's peak of tension events when Argentina decided unilaterally to consider terminated the 1995 South Atlantic oil agreements; UK's announced intention of extending its sea shelf rights in disputed territories and Antarctica, and the UK "celebration spirit" of the 25th anniversary of the Falklands' conflict. The Buenos Aires press speculates that the non-official "progressive leaders" meeting in London would also help to position President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in the international arena talking about an issue the Kirchners' administrations have valuable experience plus the fact that it would be a chance to address the "Malvinas issue" directly (and unofficially) with PM Brown. "The Malvinas claim is top of the Argentine agenda in any bilateral contacts with the United Kingdom", according to an Argentine cabinet member. Therefore the significance of advances in negotiations for the Argentine next of kin to visit the Falklands for the pending inauguration of the cemetery in Darwin. Last month President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner received in Casa Rosada a delegation from the Relatives commission of Malvinas fallen and promised to help make the trip happen. The Buenos Aires press underlined that for over two years now the relatives' commission is trying to organize a massive trip to the Falklands, at least one next of kin for every killed soldier, but have been facing logistics and diplomatic hurdles. "The first is that Islanders refuse to allow charter flights and are only willing to receive the thousand plus delegation if they come by sea, which would involve a huge cost", and the Argentine government is trying to have the trip considered "as humanitarian, so that UK and the Islanders accept the charter flights". Argentine Foreign Affairs minister Jorge Taiana officially begun a negotiation on the matter in mid 2007 with UK Ambassador in Buenos Aires, John Hughes, according to the Buenos Aires press. Furthermore "a gesture which was interpreted as positive was the end of the year (Christmas) message to the Islanders from PM Brown where he states he favors that a group of relatives travels to the Islands". But the matter of the fact is that Islanders, who have always been most open minded about humanitarian situations, have repeatedly stated that leaving aside the controversy about the charter flights from the continent which were unilaterally banned by the previous Kirchner administration, there's an almost insurmountable logistics problem. For example a couple of simple problems: there are no sufficient buses to transport over a thousand people from Mount Pleasant Airport to Darwin, and if by any chance weather conditions change, which is very common, there's no possible way to accommodate over a thousand people when there are virtually no hotels and the total population of the Islands is 2.600. As to the charters' dispute the Buenos Aires press reports that "UK can't accept (charter) flights as long as Argentina only allows a single weekly flight over its territory to the Islands", Lan Chile's Saturday link to the continent. UK is thus "requesting negotiations for a new agreement on charter flights while Argentina is longing negotiations on regular flights that would lead to improved communications with the Islands. Going back in time during the 2003 edition of the coming event, President Kirchner traveled to London with then Senator and First Lady Cristina Kirchner and in a private meeting with Tony Blair brought up the Malvinas/Falklands issue.

Categories: Politics, Falkland Islands.

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