In a long interview published this weekend in Clarin, UK ambassador Mark Kent emphasized on the coincidences of UK and Argentina, admitted his appeal in Twitter, a form of soft power, which has made him one of the most popular foreign diplomats in Buenos Aires.
What I like of Argentines is their sense of humor, we can make a lot of jokes among ourselves, and I don't know if this could be possible in other countries. In Argentina yes, Argentines connect easily and this is very important, to demystify the functions of a diplomat, ambassador Kent tells Clarín.
Without forgetting awareness of the past, we must work for an overall improvement of relations between UK and Argentina, for example advancing with the humanitarian flights, and a more modern relation which reflects the current situation, added Mark Kent who mentioned that this year Argentina and UK will jointly preside over the Equal Rights Coalition, an organization that fights for LGBT rights, and referring to increased trade and cooperation, the ambassador recalled that Argentine satellites, carry British solar panels.
However when it comes to the Islands (Falklands) and the sovereignty dispute it is clear ”we support self determination of the Islanders, but in a more modern relation we not only have to exchange diplomatic (protest) notes but search for solutions, take action.
This means for the relation several important issues, empathy, understand that in negotiations what matters are interests, sometimes in conflicting positions, people tend to forget this. Empathy to understand what is important for the others and explain what is important for you, and finally get things done. For example increasing contacts with the Islands, but also the overall relation.
That is bringing more trade missions, investment, collaboration among museums, the different ministries, that is what I mean by action and adapting the relation to modern times.
When Ambassador Kent was insistently questioned about the sovereignty dispute over the Falklands, he replied, you will never have a bilateral relation between two countries in which they agree 100%. And we recognize that Argentina has a different position in this respect, to us and to the Islanders.
Conflict leads nowhere, we must look at the real challenges, for example in fisheries, in environment, there is a real threat from illegal fishing. And besides the sovereign dispute, there is an interest from the Argentines, Islanders to collaborate in protection and conservation of fishing stocks.
To that respect ambassador Kent said that since last year Argentine and UK scientists and from the Islands are exchanging information, since we need to have a clear vision of the threat to the fish stocks. Thus it makes sense, every six months to have a meeting of the Fisheries subcommittee. Obviously we have different positions on sovereignty, but if we don't address the issue jointly we are going to be left with oceans empty of fish. So instead of sending notes on sovereignty, what matters is protection.
Likewise Mr. Kent said that there is an exchange of officers in the Antarctica project, and in coming weeks there will be joint search and rescue exercises in the South Atlantic between Argentina and UK given the relevant number of cruise vessels.
And what about the Argentine sanctions on companies involved in hydrocarbons exploration in the Islands waters, imposed under Kirchnerism? We are in the same line as was agreed in the 2016 joint statement, in effect we want all sanctions lifted. We are waiting and seeing progress, we have a closer relation between Islanders and Argentines.
An opinion of president Mauricio Macri administration? We work with the government as professionals, and we are advancing in many fields, in an agenda increasing collaboration, particularly in trade and investment. We are expecting a visit from a special envoy from PM Theresa May to address the issue.
However I must add we are prepared to collaborate with any government which has an interest to collaborate with us and is open to the world. Thus we do not take position in election options of a country, this is a strictly an Argentine domestic issue.
When asked about Brexit and its consequences, ambassador Kent said it means British ambassadors will need to be more active since many of those tasks belonged to the European Commission. There are important countries and you will see after Brexit we will be far more active in trade and investment affairs in the region, and eventually UK will have a free trade accord with Argentina or Mercosur.
Finally, when Prime Minister Theresa May visited Argentina last December she said the Islands are not negotiable, this despite Brexit. What is the next step?
We are going to continue with practical collaboration and with our position which is support for the Islanders self determination.
In summing up the interview, Clarin underlines the strong influence ambassador Kent has on the Argentine presidency and foreign ministry in advancing bilateral cooperation, despite the sovereign dispute over the South Atlantic Islands, but also mentions that the context is positive for such an approach. The Macri administration shelved the confrontation and malvinización” policies of the Kirchner presidencies, and the UK itself is involved in preparing for a new global context in a post-Brexit scenario.
Finally in a quick single reply questionnaire ambassador Kent pointed out as outstanding the Humanitarian project to identify Argentine soldiers buried in the Islands.
Among those persons which have influenced him and his career, Kent mentioned his grandfather, Winston Churchill, Strobe Talbott and Henry Kissinger's book Diplomacy.
Mark Kent confessed to love fish and chips, whisky single malt, expects sometime to finish a marathon and hopefully someday Arsenal will win the Champions League.