The next Uruguayan administration is open to consider voting for former Argentine president Nestor Kirchner as chairman of the Union of South American Nations, Unasur, said Luis Almagro the incoming Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Almagro anticipated that the administration of President-elect Jose Mujica, who takes office March first, will assess “from zero” the issue of candidates for Unasur chair.
The stance marks a total reversal of current policy under President Tabare Vazquez who vetoed Kirchner in the midst of the bilateral conflict over the construction of a pulp mill on a shared river, and Argentine (government sponsored) pickets blocking traffic to Uruguay since November 2006.
“The next government will look at the candidates presented. We’ll assess again and from zero and we will be deciding on that basis”, added Almagro.
President elect Mujica has shown willingness to dialogue and negotiate with Argentina with the object of overcoming the tense situation of these last years.
Almagro described Unasur as a “concerted mechanism” with a “superlative importance in the regional context”. However he did not accept the concept that Unasur should be seen as “excluding” the US.
“I never support going against something. I don’t think that it excludes the US but simply is part of a Latinamerican process, in search of the best mechanism for integration or concerted actions”.
The incoming minister recalled that in spite of the bilateral pulp mill conflict, Mujica has held several “personal contacts” with the Argentine government.
“The issue needs a quick solution and we are on course to that objective and therefore we are not going to close or ignore any instance that cuts the road to a solution”, he added paraphrasing president elect Mujica words on the issue.
As to a joint committee agreed last January during a meeting in Buenos Aires with President Cristina Kirchner, Almagro said that no agenda had been established, yet, or who would be sitting in.
Almagro anticipated that The Hague International Court of Justice ruling on the pulp mill dispute will most certainly hold a “multiplicity of aspects” which should help address the issue jointly with Argentina, but “hopefully nobody is thinking of dismounting the plant and shipping it back to Finland”.
Almagro also underlined that relations with Brazil are “essential” for Uruguay as well as a more dynamic Mercosur to help it overcome its “current paralysis”.
“We believe Mercosur must advance with Unasur and in negotiations with the European Union, addressing the issues with pragmatism”, said Almagro.
More specifically on trade with Iran and Venezuela the Mujica administration will have an “objective, pragmatic” relation.
“Iran and Venezuela are countries with which Uruguay has long standing links of friendship and trade”, but he emphasized “relations will be absolutely business-oriented with Uruguay’s interests paramount”.
Finally he confirmed the incoming President Mujica administration support for the re-election of Chile’s Jose Miguel Insulza as Secretary General of the Organization of American States, OAS.
“He’s a man of impeccable credentials and has done a magnificent job”, said Almagro.