Major offers Menem a state visit to Britain

UN FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY

Thirteen years after the Falklands war, John Major yesterday extended a tentative hand of friendship to the President of Argentina, Carlos Menem, suggesting that he might pay an official visit to Britain as early as next year.

An agreement on the principle at least of a state visit was struck at talks between Mr Major and President Menem in New York on the fringes of the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the United Nations. It was the first summit-level meeting between the countries since the Falklands war.

British officials said Mr Major made the offer on condition that a recent thaw in ties continues and specifically that proposals to agree a fisheries agreement are successfully carried through. Mr Menem suggested in return that Mr Major could visit Buenos Aires. The Argentine Foreign Minister, Guido di Tella, said Mr Major and Mr Menem agreed to meet again in Madrid before the end of the year. Both men declined to give interviews after their meeting. Diplomatic ties were restored in 1990, shortly after Mr Menem came to power.

Even until recently, British officials have indicated that the idea of an official visit by the Argentine president was still unthinkable.

Part of the change in atmosphere has arisen from the signing last month of an oil-exploration agreement, under which Buenos Aires agreed not to interfere with the licensing by Britain of companies wishing to search for oil in Falkland Island waters.

There was no direct exchange between the two leaders yesterday on the core issue of the sovereignty of the Falklands, known in Argentina as the Malvinas.

Mr Major told reporters in New York that Britain's position on retaining them as British territory remained "unshakeable". A British source said last night: "What we're concerned with here is steadily to see whether it is possible to improve relations. We believe that what people want to see is Britain preserving sovereignty over the Falkland Islands in an environment where the threat of war from Argentina is removed."

Earlier, Mr Menem had signalled that he expected the fisheries pact, which will focus especially on conserving stocks of squid in the South Atlantic, to be signed "towards the end of this year or early next year".

Mr Menem was at pains to emphasise how far his country's relations with Britain have improved since diplomatic ties were restored.

"Our relations with the UK are good," he insisted. He said that trade between the countries was improving and noted, as an example, that British Airways is now flying to Buenos Aires. The Argentine President, who has vowed before domestic audiences to restore the Falkland Islands to his country by the year 2000, conceded that he had no plans to raise the issue directly with Mr Major. "As you know, sovereignty has been placed under an umbrella for the time being," he said before the meeting.

Britain took over the Falklands, located in the South Atlantic, in 1833. Argentina invaded the islands in 1982, triggering a 74-day war in which Britain regained the islands.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
Fans take a selfie with Ed Miliband in Kempston, near Bedford, on Tuesday
election 2015
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Leeds

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Leeds This i...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power