Britain fumes as US backs Argentine foreign minister’s bid for UN secretary general
Susana Malcorra has routinely demanded the UK relinquish control of the Falkland Islands.
The White House is reportedly enthusiastic in its backing of Malcorra’s application for the UN’s top job, despite the concerns of its ‘closest ally’ Britain.
The move could be interpreted as a snub, threatening to expose existing differences in policy between Britain and America over the Falkland Islands, known to Argentina as Las Islas Malvinas.
While the UK backs the islanders’ right to self-determination, the US holds tightly to its historic policy of conspicuous silence over the issue.
A 2013 referendum on the Falkland Islands found 99.8 percent of the population favors remaining part of the UK.
“It’s a really tough call for the UK. There is obvious concern at having someone heading up the UN who firmly believes that the Falklands should belong to Argentina,” a British diplomat was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
“But at the same time, Downing Street doesn’t want to appear petty by blocking an otherwise excellent candidate, just for her country’s claim.”
Since becoming Argentina’s foreign minister last December, Malcorra has insisted the Falklands question is no longer a major issue, as it had been with the previous government.
However, she said the Malvinas are still “a top priority because they are in the constitution and if I were to dismiss the issue I would be going against the constitution.”
Lord West of Spithead, a former First Sea Lord who was commander of HMS Ardent when it was sunk by Argentine forces during the 1982 Falklands War, said Britain must demand assurances over the future of the islands.
“Britain must make it quite clear sovereignty will not be discussed. Argentina invaded another country. If Ms. Malcorra is a good, competent, candidate then OK, but it would be extremely disappointing if she was running a domestic agenda.”
Washington refused to take sides during the Falklands War, to the grievance of the British government at the time.
Formerly secret documents released to the Britain’s National Archives in December 2012 show the level of friction between then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan over the issue.
According to a memo, Reagan telephoned Thatcher at midnight on May 31, 1982, urging the PM to reach a cease-fire deal with Argentina rather than push for withdrawal without negotiation.
Thatcher was reportedly angered at the suggestion, before asking Reagan to put himself in her position.
“She was sure the president would act in the same way if Alaska had similarly been threatened,” the memo states.