The occasion was today’s launch of the Foreign Office’s annual report on human rights, and William Hague was keen not to let the media monopolise the questioning. So he turned to a lady sitting on the front row, among the great and the good at Lancaster House
He got more than he bargained for.
“Foreign Secretary, you speak about Britain promoting human rights and peace in all corners of the world – we need to introduce peace and dialogue over the Malvinas in line with the UN Resolution 2065 as passed in 1965!” So began Alicia Castro, introducing herself as the Argentine ambassador to the Court of St James.
Mr Hague, natural good manners mixed with rising alarm, interjected “Ambassador can you please say, what exactly is your question?” Ms Castro hardly missed a beat: “Considering that the UN, the international community and a number of Nobel laureates have called upon both countries to hold meaningful dialogues to resolve this matter, my question is are you ready for dialogue? Are you willing to give peace a chance? And my third question is….”
The British Foreign Secretary raised a palm: “Stop!” Taking a breath he went on: “Self-determination is a basic political right of the people of the Falkland Islands, and they can count on us always, permanently, to stand by them.”
Afterwards Ms Castro, in a blue suit holding a blue handbag, with a demeanour resembling a certain former British prime minister, declared that she had been forced to carry out the ambush after failing in her attempt to meet Mr Hague over the Malvinas.
She told The Independent: “I spoke to him at the Lord’s [Lord Mayor’s] Easter dinner. I pointed out that we must speak, we need to engage in 21st-century diplomacy and not the colonial diplomacy of the 19th-century. We have heard nothing from his people at all.
“I have had a good meeting with [Foreign Office minister] Jeremy Browne about flights between Argentina and the Falklands and fishery conservation. He is a very nice man. And we must continue in the same way – if only Mr Hague will hold a proper dialogue.”
Ms Castro, 62, became the first Argentine ambassador to the UK for three years after moving here from Venezuela. The former stewardess with Aerolineas Argentinas and fiery union official is a confidante of President Cristina Kirchner and became very close to Hugo Chavez in Caracas.
After her appointment to London an Argentine website ran a picture of her with the Venezuelan leader genuflecting and kissing an imperious looking Ms Castro’s hand with the caption, “Will Prince Charles be her next conquest?”
Ms Castro’s immediate focus, however, is the Falklands: “They keep on about self-determination, but not everyone can have self-determination. A province in my country can’t decide to vote and join China for example.”
She wanted to stress, however: “We do not want to take away the Britishness of the people in the Malvinas, they are proud to be British and we respect that. But why keep a thousand soldiers, aircraft, boats there? For an invasion that will never happen. It was a cruel, stupid war carried out by our cruel military junta which was killing its own people while killing British soldiers in the Malvinas. Do you think we approve of that?”
Ms Castro feels that it is time to stop talking about the war. “We don’t want David Cameron reminding us constantly that we lost the war, we know that. He doesn’t keep saying to Angela Merkel that Germany lost the war, does he? We know why, because Britain needs German help to cope with the recession.”
Will the Ambassador keep turning up at William Hague’s press conferences? “Wait and see, if it’s the only way to bring peace, why not?” she said shaking her handbag.