The Guardian's diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour caught up with Argentine foreign minister Susana Malcorra in London and interviewed her on UK-Argentina relations and the Falklands/Malvinas dispute. Ms Malcorra said Argentina wants to end the era of confrontation over the South Atlantic islands.
Hopeful of a long term solution to the dispute, Malcorra said joint ventures between the two countries on hydrocarbons was “a sensible thing to discuss and could make sense”, and argued Argentina might be willing to lift restrictions on air flights from Latin America if some of the flights went direct to Buenos Aires. UK's position on her bid to the UN Secretary General post was also part of the interview.
Argentina is willing to consider resuming direct flights to and from the Falklands Islands and a joint UK-Argentine exploration of hydrocarbons around the Islands, the Argentine foreign minister, Susana Malcorra, has said.
Alan Duncan, the UK Foreign Office minister, is due in Buenos Aires next week for bilateral talks along with a UK business delegation, and the offer suggests Britain’s soured relations with Argentina are set for a more positive turn after years of diplomatic conflict following Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands in 1982.
Duncan will also appear at the inaugural Argentina Business and Investment Forum, due to be attended by more than 40 UK-based business leaders.
Stressing that Argentina’s claim to the Falklands is implanted in its constitution, Malcorra, one of the leading candidates to become the first female secretary general of the UN in the organization’s history, told The Guardian she wanted to end the era of confrontation.
She also expressed confidence that the UK would not regard her nationality as a reason to veto her bid to succeed the current UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.
One of five women still in the 10-strong race, Malcorra received warm support from the Chinese at the G20 in China earlier this week, and is now back in the running in a highly unpredictable race, after having fallen from third to fifth place in the latest straw poll of security council members.
Two further straw polls are expected shortly, before a further poll in October, which will reveal whether any permanent security council member will veto a specific candidate.
Malcorra said she was looking for confidence-building measures between the UK and Argentina, and heralded a change in rhetoric. “The previous administration was very confrontational, and we do not want that. We both recognize that solving this problem will take time. Our claim to the Malvinas will be sustained, but as part of the approach of a good neighbor.
“We think over the long term a solution can be found but in the meantime we can and should be respectful, and find ways to open up the opportunities for confidence-building measures. There has been a zero-sum approach, but we think if we sit at the table, and are positive and creative there are alternatives.”
She added that 80% of Anglo-Argentine relations were cooperative, and the task was to work on the remaining 20%.
At present only Chile currently has an approved air route to the Falklands after the government of Néstor Kirchner banned charter flights from passing through Argentine air space. Under the previous administration the Argentine congress also approved a law that penalizes companies that explore and exploit hydrocarbons without authorization from Buenos Aires.
Malcorra said joint ventures between the two countries on hydrocarbons was “a sensible thing to discuss and could make sense”. She argued her country might be willing to lift restrictions on air flights from Latin America if some of the flights went direct to Buenos Aires.
She also pointed out that an International Red Cross delegation had visited the Falklands to start the process of identifying the bodies of Argentine soldiers buried on the Islands.
Malcorra is in London for a major conference on UN peacekeeping, and proposed reforms to make the performance of the peacekeepers much more accountable after successive stories of UN forces sexually exploiting or abusing the population they have been sent to protect.
She insisted that most UN peacekeepers behaved, but she proposed national governments be required to sign a compact making them clearly accountable for the actions of their soldiers and police. In addition, she called for an ombudsman answerable to the UN general assembly and responsible for an annual public report on the performance of peacekeepers.
“It is a name and shame approach. At present each set of troops are reporting to their own commander in chiefs, and the UN can only report about a problem. This needs to change.”
With the Chinese warming to her candidacy and the US supportive, the biggest stumbling block to Malcorra’s candidature may be the attitude of the Russians and her status as former chief of staff to Ban Ki-moon.
The Russians in principle back a candidate from eastern Europe, on the basis that it is the region’s turn to run the world body, but she is drawing support with her appeal to rein in the mushrooming UN bureaucracy, focus on results and bring a remote bureaucracy closer to the people.
With her experience in the private sector as well as 10 years at the UN, Malcorra has experience of breaking glass ceilings and added: “I have an insider-outsider perspective. I have the advantage of knowing enough about what needs to change without being so deeply ingrained in the bureaucracy as to be run by it.”
The prospect of another man being selected for the post – the current frontrunner is the former Portuguese prime minister António Guterres – leaves her exasperated. “Looking at the female candidates, it would be a surprise to me if the UN decides that none of them merits appointment. It has been 70 years that men have been at the helm”.