Podium: Despite disputes, peace must prevail

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The Independent Culture


Fom the Canning Memorial lecture given this year by the Argentinian president

THE YEAR 1982 was a traumatic one in the history of our two countries because brave young men from both countries died in a war that should not have taken place. It was a war that today we all deeply regret.

My visit here is truly guided by a spirit of peace and reconciliation; without forgetting the past I now look towards the future. This does not mean that the controversy in the South Atlantic does not subsist.

As President of Argentina I reiterate our firm conviction in the legitimacy of our historic rights. The Argentine position in relation to the question of Sovereignty over the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas is well known.

In addition, the United Nations, through various resolutions, has been urging both parties to negotiate and Argentina will always be prepared to do so.

In the meanwhile, both our Governments will continue working together in a spirit of co-operation on all issues of mutual interest in the South Atlantic context.

I solemnly reaffirm that my country rejects the use or the threat of the use of force to solve this question. I repeat once more our solemn undertaking to seek a solution only be peaceful means. On the other hand, our constitution states that the islanders' way of life must be respected, this is another solemn undertaking by all Argentines. I also wish my message of peace and reconciliation to reach the inhabitants of the islands with clarity and in the name of my fellow citizens, I extend to the islanders a friendly hand in order to rebuild our co-existence.

In this regard, re-establishment of communication between the islands and the continent is an essential and inevitable step. I would also like to express my recognition of the humanitarian initiative that enabled the next of kin to visit the graves of Argentine soldiers buried in the islands.

The Argentina of today is a different country politically and socially, strategically and economically. Politically and socially, it is a true democracy that resolutely defends its newly found political liberty, newly recovered economic liberty and vital freedom of speech. The same spirit, of course, prevails in the United Kingdom.

In this context, I should like to say how pleased we are with the positive developments towards final peace in Northern Ireland. The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to David Trimble and John Hume is well-deserved recognition for those who somehow follow the path which George Canning showed us more than a century and a half ago.I have no doubt that Argentina and the United Kingdom will always be seen, in the future, as friends and partners.

Shortly after taking office, I told my then Foreign Minister that one of the objectives of our foreign policy should be the re-building of our relationship with the United Kingdom. Such was the requirement of the active presence of Britain throughout our history and the fruitful economic and commercial relationship which we have always had.

So was it determined by the importance of British culture for ours and such was the mandate of the relevance for our society of so many Argentines of English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish origin.

This direction was also indicated by the need for us to become a member of the community of nations of the Western world, of which the United Kingdom is one of the key players.

Our two countries share important values and interests: the protection of democracy, respect for human rights, free markets and the preservation of the legacy of humanity for future generations.

Since the re-establishment of Argentina's diplomatic and consular relations with the United Kingdom political, commercial and military ties have been reconstructed and reinforced, giving the relationship a new and important potential for future development.

This is the platform on which our countries can plan our bilateral relationship on the threshold of the next millennium. I believe that it is essential that we face modernity fully aware of the new challenges that it presents to us, with non-traditional dimensions, such as science and technology.

As far as I am concerned, a year from the end of my second term as President of Argentina , I am convinced that whatever policy we wish to adopt, the essential component is dialogue and peace.

It is for this reason that my visit to the United Kingdom takes place in a spirit of reconciliation. I am convinced that this will be one of the most valuable legacies we can bequeath future generations.