Argentina to hold ‘high level’ talks with Britain about Falklands at UN

© Eduardo Munoz
Buenos Aires will hold “high level” talks with UK officials on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next week, Argentina’s president has announced.

Mauricio Marci said the discussions would aim to foster a “positive relation with the UK,” but at the same time he insisted the disputed Falklands Islands would be a key topic.

Although the goal of reclaiming the Falklands, also known as Islas Malvinas, is enshrined in Argentina’s constitution, Marci has indicated the dispute will not get in the way of fostering good business and political relations with Britain.

The British Foreign Office welcomed the dialogue, but insisted the “UK continues to strongly support the rights of the Falkland Islanders and our position on sovereignty has not changed - there can be no dialogue on this unless the Falkland Islanders so wish.

Shortly after being elected president last November, the former Buenos Aires mayor vowed to start “a new kind of relationship” with Britain after bilateral relations soured under his predecessor, Christina Fernández de Kirchner.

We’re planning a meeting in New York during the UN sessions,” he said on Tuesday, at a business and investment forum in Buenos Aires with UK Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan present.

We’re going to establish a round of conversations. We know it won’t be easy and will take time, but we must start.

We can’t accept that we can’t sit at a table and begin talking about all issues.”

Marci said the Falklands would be a key topic of discussion.

We’re not going to leave aside our claim,” he said.

The Falklands were not discussed during his meeting with former UK Prime Minister David Cameron in January – the first official bilateral encounter since Tony Blair visited Argentina in 2001.

The program for next week’s meeting at the UN will be thrashed out between Duncan and Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra on Tuesday evening in the San Martin Palace.

Marci’s announcement comes a week after Malcorra announced Argentina is considering a joint fossil fuels exploration project with the UK around the Falklands.

Malcorra is currently one of the leading female candidates to replace Ban Ki-moon as secretary-general of the UN and has expressed her hope that Britain would not attempt to block her appointment.

She also said Buenos Aires is considering resuming direct flights to and from the islands, which it continues to claim as Argentina’s sovereign territory.