Menem sees UK visit as step closer to Falklands goal

PHIL DAVISON

Latin America Correspondent

The meeting between John Major and the Argentine President, Carlos Menem, on the fringes of the United Nations New York birthday party, has been billed in Buenos Aires as a giant leap and a "breakthrough" for Mr Menem.

Not only did he get his longtime wish - an invitation, though hardly a hearty one, and deliberately imprecise, to visit London - but the President sees every step closer to Britain as a step closer to gaining the Falkland Islands peacefully.

"Menem's got his visa," said a headline in yesterday's daily Pagina 12. "Next year to London," said another paper, Clarin, which quoted Mr Menem as saying after the meeting that "we hope that some time in the not too distant future, sovereignty [over the islands] might be discussed."

Although London and Buenos Aires stressed sovereignty was neither on nor near the table in New York, most Falklanders believed it was most definitely on Mr Menem's mind. Many expressed fears that the Prime Minister may be worn down by Mr Menem's slick style and that he may head down "the appeasement road."

"We always believe there are hidden agendas at the highest level," said an islander and former councillor, Terry Peck. "I don't think Major's a very strong character but there's no question in our minds that Menem's a shrewd operator, and [Argentine Foreign Minister Guido] di Tella likewise. They've played on our nerves for many years."

Mr Menem has asked Mr di Tella to "persuade" the Falklanders that Argentine sovereignty would be in their best interests, according to a government source in Buenos Aires. One idea would be for joint sovereignty "until the islanders get used to the idea and realise that we have their best interests at heart," the source said.

Another idea, publicly acknowledged by Mr Menem and Mr di Tella, is to offer the islanders' "compensation", which was last estimated at $500,000 (pounds 310,000) per head for the 2,000 islanders, in return for accepting Argentine sovereignty. The Falklanders have rejected the idea.

"Sovereignty is not negotiable," Mr Peck said. "I'd never, ever, support joint flags and I think I can speak for 90 percent of islanders. There's no way people here would trust the Argentinians. But if there's oil in these waters, it's money that's going to talk. When oil is involved, 2,000 people don't count for one iota."

Mr Menem has been pushing aggressively for closer ties with Britain this year, particularly since his re-election to a second term in May. As far back as February, the daily Clarin said British Gas officials were pressuring Mr Major to invite Mr Menem to London.

The newspaper said thatBritish Gas and the Argentine national oil company, YPF, had reached a "verbal" agreement on oil exploration in Falklands waters. Confirming the deal, Mr Menem said that "this delivers enormous possibilities and advances to Argentina in the conflict for the Malvinas [Falklands]." London and Buenos Aires played down the oil deal report at the time, but in September the two governments signed an agreement for oil prospecting and exploration.

British diplomats said that Mr Major and Mr Menem had agreed also that experts from both countries should reach an agreement on regulating squid catches in the waters between the Falklands and Argentina. An initial meeting would be held in Buenos Aires next month, they said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • 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

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence