Argentine ambassador in UK Alicia Castro rejects having mentioned during a conference in London the “possibility of a constitutional reform” to incorporate the results in the event of a sovereignty negotiation over the disputed Falklands/Malvinas Islands.
The controversy erupted following a report from La Nacion by Correspondent Graciela Iglesias on the conference last Friday at the London School of Economics, which besides Ambassador Castro included in the panel former British ambassador in Argentina John Hughes.
In a letter addressed to La Nacion ambassador Castro argues that the piece published May 19, on the conference held Friday May 17, under the heading “Malvinas: Argentina offers to change the Constitution”, ‘incorrectly reports that I stated Argentina was ‘willing to undertake a constitutional reform’ to incorporate the results in the event of a (Falklands/Malvinas) negotiation with the UK’.
Ms Castro then explains why the interpretation was incorrect saying that ambassador Hughes had argued that any negotiation with Argentina over the Islands’ sovereignty was already pre-determined in the transitory dispositions of the 1994 Argentine constitution, and thus it was pointless to sit and negotiate with Argentina. Faced with this argument, described as “a coarse excuse”, Ms Castro said the UK negative to negotiate is not justified because Argentina recorded its sovereignty claim in the constitution, “after all London rejected any discussions on the issue with Argentina before 1994” and it is understandable that countries establish in their domestic legislation the claim over a disputed territory and that the result of negotiations could require one of the sides to modify legislation to make international compromises operational. In other words, “the claim of a country over a disputed territory is no obstacle for negotiations”.
Ambassador Castro then refers to her reply to a top official from the Foreign Office, Martin Longden who was sitting in the front line of the auditorium. “Effectively I celebrated he posed questions during the debate, the same way I did with Foreign Secretary William Hague a few days ago. Diplomacy also needs transparency and accountability”.
More specifically on the issue, and “which La Nacion reporter erroneously quotes” Ambassador Castro states she said that “Argentina does not recognize the inhabitants of the Malvinas Islands, British citizens, as a third party in the negotiations”. Furthermore “you can’t speculate with results, but rather open dialogue and sit to negotiate”, which is what the whole international community is demanding. “By avoiding the peaceful path to solve controversies, the UK not only has a hostile attitude, but also illegal”.
Ms Castro concludes saying that Argentina and the UK have the historic opportunity to give an example to the world by resolving the conflict through peaceful and diplomatic means, and above all the responsibility of not leaving the conflict and its dangers, unresolved for future generations.
Finally, the full text of the conference is available at the Argentine embassy in London and at the London School of Economics.
Clarification from La Nacion
The letter to La Nacion also motivated a clarification from the reporter Graciela Iglesias.
At the conference at the prestigious London School of Economics on future relations between Argentina and the UK, “Ambassador Alicia Castro alluded to a possible constitutional modification and she did so when referring to the (Argentine) government’s desire to open dialogue on the Malvinas Islands sovereignty”.
The Argentine representative used the expression “it is to be expected” that in situations such as these “countries involved modify their domestic legislation to incorporate the texts of international treaties, the result of a negotiation”.
UK Ambassador Hughes did not quote the piece in the Constitution referred to the South Atlantic in its condition of a “transitory disposition”, (even when that is the case and ambassador Castro omitted to point it out), but rather read the full text of the article which states that “the recovery of those territories constitutes a standing and unrenounceable objective of the Argentine people”.
It is correct that Ambassador Castro discarded the idea of a tripartite negotiation. It was included in the original piece and omitted because of lack of space. The Argentine embassy in London transcribed to the press extracts from the Ambassador’s speech the following day, but not the transcription of the debate that followed that was when the issue of the constitutional reform surfaced.
Full text of the conference is available audio in the LSE web: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=1481 ).
Follows the article which triggered the controversy:
“Malvinas: Argentina offers to change the Constitution”
Argentine ambassador in the UK Alicia Castro argued that Argentina was willing to undertake a constitutional reform to incorporate the result of a possible negotiation with the UK on the Malvinas Islands sovereignty and assured a Foreign Office official that she has “instructions to open the dialogue” even when it does not end in the terms established in the current (1994) constitution.
It all happened during a discussion on the conflict organized by the London School of Economics. Her companion at the conference podium was former ambassador in Buenos Aires from 2004 to 2008, John Hughes. In his speech he argued that the Argentine constitution text is a serious obstacle for dialogue because it leaves the UK “not before a negotiation in which all can be discussed, but before a capitulation”.
Ambassador Castro replicated that “to argue that the 1994 constitution impedes opening negotiations is no more than a coarse excuse not to sit to discuss. When negotiations take place and international treaties are signed, the involved countries modify their domestic legislation to incorporate them. Argentina is willing to do that”.
The Argentine constitution stipulates that the recovery of the Malvinas constitutes “a standing and unrenounceable objective of the Argentine people”.
The issue was reiterated by the Deputy Chief of the FCO Overseas Territory, Martin Longden. During a brief intervention when the audience was allowed to pose written questions, he asked “if Argentina contemplated, in theory, a negotiation process that could end in something that does not mean cession of sovereignty”.
The question caught Ms Castro by surprise but she was quick to compare the action to that of hers a few days ago taking advantage of a conference on human rights by Foreign Secretary William Hague when she reproached the UK negative to negotiate on the Falklands/Malvinas sovereignty dispute.
“Martin Longden? Is this question from you?” asked Ms Castro to the FCO official sitting in the front line of the auditorium. “Well if I posed questions to Hague at Lancaster House, I don’t see why you can’t do the same with me in public. I think it’s right”.
“I’m not here to speculate” said the Argentine ambassador with a smile. “As all diplomats I follow orders. I have been given instructions to say that we want to open the dialogue”.