'We are ready to collaborate with any government that has an interest in collaborating with us, and that is open to the world' (Ambassador Mark Kent)
Falklands: Face-to-face interview with UK Ambassador Mark Kent
Sunday, February 10, 2019, 20:00 (GMT + 9)
Part of the interview conducted by the journalist Natasha Niebieskikwiat, from the Argentine newspaper Clarín, to the British ambassador in Buenos Aires Mark Kent, is reproduced below, where the delicate Malvinas-Falkland issue and the fishing activity are discussed:
"... We are working on humanitarian aid to progress with humanitarian flights (of the fallen´s relatives), an integration process, and we are looking for a more modern relationship that reflects the current situation." This year, Argentina and the United Kingdom are the joint presidents of the Equal Rights Coalition which is an organization that fights for LGBT rights. We are working in the United Nations. We have a relationship that is much broader than just the islands issue.
29 governments announced the launch of a Coalition of Equal Rights at the conclusion of the Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference in Montevideo, Uruguay in 2016
-What would it be "we are looking for a more modern relationship that reflects the current times"?
-A relation with more trade and investment, with more scientific collaboration. I give you an example: the Argentine satellites have British solar panels, and we want to do more in terms of culture.
-And in that more modern relationship, how does the conflict of sovereignty enter?
-Our position is to support the right of self-determination of the islanders. But in a more modern relationship we can not only exchange diplomatic notes (such as protest). You have to look for solutions, take actions, that's very important. The change of a relationship has to have several things. One is empathy, the second is to understand in negotiations that the important thing is interests. Sometimes they have conflictive positions where people forget this important point. You always have to think about this situation, what the interests are, and what their interests are. So we are building progress. And it is what we are trying. Interests, not positions. Empathy, to understand what is important for others and explain what is important to you, and the third is to do things. For example, making more contacts with the islands, but also in the relationship in general terms. Bringing more trade missions, investment, collaborative projects between museums, between ministries, this kind of thing is to take action, it is very important if we are going to adapt the relationship to modern times.
"The Argentine Nation ratifies its legitimate and imprescriptible sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and the corresponding maritime and island areas, as it is an integral part of the national territory."
-But always under the umbrella of sovereignty ... On the outside they talk about everything but never about how to solve this sovereignty dispute. Are there possibilities of a change of status in the long run?
-You will never have a bilateral relationship between two countries where all parties agree 100 percent. And we recognize that Argentina has a different position in this respect, than us, and the islanders themselves.
"The Argentine Nation ratifies its legitimate and imprescriptible sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and the corresponding maritime and island areas, as it is an integral part of the national territory."
-The Government lowered the issue of the claim and the tone ...
-Yes, the conflict does not lead anywhere. Because we have to see the real challenges. For example, in fishing, in the environment, we see that there is a threat, illegal fishing. And apart from the sovereignty dispute, there is interest both from Argentines, both from the islanders, to collaborate in the protection of fishing stocks.
- What Antarctic collaboration is there between the two countries today?
-For Antarctica, there is an international treaty that is running with all the countries involved. Second, in terms of bilateral collaboration, we signed a memorandum of understanding between the two institutes of Antarctica, both Argentine and British, last year, to make collaborations. What we are seeing, for example, is collaboration in practical terms between ships and also between the Argentine and British bases in Antarctica, and we will continue. At the end of last year we had two officers from Armada Argentina who spent several weeks with the Protector's crew, we are open to receiving Argentine scientists.
In red, areas administered by the authorities of the Falkland Islands in fisheries and natural resources in general
-In fishing there is also new cooperation but also controversial ...
What has been done since last year is a combination between the British Argentine scientists and the islands, exchanging information, because we have to have a clear vision of the problem of the threat to fish stocks. So it makes sense that every six months we have a meeting in the fishing subcommittee. And just like the Protector and the Argentine officers on board, we now have an exchange of personnel for the research cruisers. Of course we have different positions on sovereignty, but if we do not act together we will not have more fishing in the oceans. So, instead of sending notes on sovereignty, and of course we reserve both sides of the positions, the important thing is to act to protect. In the coming weeks we will do the search and rescue exercises in the South Atlantic, between Argentine and British officers, very important for the large number of cruises.
- At what point are the talks about the sanctions on hydrocarbon operations imposed by the Kirchnerism for those who operate on the islands?
- We are in the same line that was agreed in 2016, in the joint declaration, that we want all sanctions to be removed.
We are waiting and making progress. We already have a relationship between the islanders and the Argentines that is closest.
Relatives of Argentine military in the cemetery of Darwin on the island Soledad.
- Where do you see that? I do not see it that much ...
-The invitation to make the second humanitarian flight has just come from the islanders themselves (to the fallen´s relatives).
- What is your opinion about the Mauricio Macri government?
-We work with the government as professionals, and this is what we are advancing in many things, as I told you. And we are with an agenda to accentuate the collaboration, especially in trade and investment, that's why we are waiting for a visit from the special envoy of the prime minister for trade and investment (it would come this month).
- Your policy is directed to the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union?
- Leaving the European Union with the Brexit implies that we have to be more active internationally. Tasks that were previously done by the European Commission, now we are going to do them ourselves. The British diplomats themselves, and of course Mercosur is an important market. There are important countries, and after Brexit you will see that we will be more active to promote this trade and investment with the region, and eventually, another free trade agreement between Argentina, or Mercosur and the United Kingdom.
- Is the United Kingdom interested in a bilateral trade agreement with Argentina in case Mercosur becomes more flexible and allows it?
-Yes, I think it depends on Argentina. If Argentina wants and can sign a bilateral agreement or if it stays in the Mercosur picture. So far all the negotiations of the European Union have been with Mercosur. But we are not in this stage now. We are now in the stage of finalizing our exit from the European Union.
Face-to-face interview with the Ambassador of Great Britain in Argentina, Mark Kent, at the diplomatic headquarters in Buenos Aires. (Photo: Juano Tesone / Clarin)
-Theresa May, who was here in December, said that the islands are not negotiated, despite a Brexit. What can you do then?
-We will continue with the practical collaboration, and our position, which is the support for the self-determination of the islanders.
- It is convenient for the British government that the government of Macri follow? Are you worried about a return of Kirchnerism?
-We are ready to collaborate with any government that has an interest in collaborating with us, and that is open to the world. So we do not issue opinions on election options. That is a strictly internal matter of Argentina.
It is difficult that, coming from an important destiny, and betting to follow others, an ambassador compromises his word to show that one activity or another is the most exalted of his professional life. For Mark Kent, the so-called Humanitarian Project Plan, for which Argentina and the UK gave a mandate to the International Committee of the Red Cross to identify the Argentines who remained buried in unnamed tombs in the Argentine cemetery of Darwin, is "the most important job" of his career. Of 121 bodies that bear the legend “Argentine Soldier Only Known by God” in the Darwin cemetery, 110 were already identified. Last year, 90 families traveled to the islands to see the new tombstones of their loved ones - there are 230 tombs but half were already identified. Now, at the invitation of the British and islanders, a new flight is prepared ... "(Read the full article here)