In a flamboyant gesture akin to the Queen showing up for a village fête steering committee, the President of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez, is to be the star guest at a meeting next week of mid-ranking UN officials who periodically ponder lingering colonisation issues. On the agenda this time: the Falkland Islands.
News that Ms Fernandez will attend the confab in New York on Thursday is being greeted with a mixture of bafflement and irritation, at least on the part of one country. "Quite unusual" was the understated response from one senior source not far removed from the UK. He noted that the gathering in question – known in UN-speak as the 24 Committee or C24 – has never before had its door darkened by a national minister of any rank, let alone a head of state. "Strange," he said.
Not so strange in the context of Ms Fernandez's ongoing campaign to use the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War to press her case that Britain should enter negotiations on the future status of the islands. From New York she will travel to the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, where she will try to shoehorn the Falklands on to the agenda alongside Syria, Iran and the euro. Her target there will be the Prime Minister David Cameron.
But worthy combatants also await Ms Fernandez in New York. Two members of the Falklands Legislative Assembly are on their way to take their seats at the C24, accompanied by two "young professionals" from Port Stanley. The delegation of Islanders is expected to request what would surely be a lively meeting with the Argentine President, to explain to her what "self-determination" means and to suggest where she can put her negotiations proposal.
Ms Fernandez is also expected to stage a press conference outlining her claim that Britain is using the Falklands as a base to "militarise" the whole of the South Atlantic and thereby target Argentina and other regional countries – an allegation that the British Ambassador to the UN, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, has gladly called "rubbish".
As it presses the issue of the Falklands, the Argentine government has found some support in recent months from neighbours in Latin America. Recent actions have included barriers to British shipping in the region and last week Argentina accused five British oil and gas companies of illegally exploring waters around the Falklands, known to Argentina as Las Malvinas.
A junior Foreign Office minister, Jeremy Browne, who is due to travel to the Falklands this week as part of the 30-year celebrations, has accused Buenos Aires of deliberately trying to undermine the economic growth of the islands.
He said: "Sometimes there is a narrative from Argentina – and the decolonisation committee is prompted by that narrative – that here is Britain, this big, global power, and poor Argentina, that is going to the decolonisation committee at the UN to try and have their voice heard.
"Well, that is the Argentinian narrative. Let me put forward what I think is a much more accurate, contemporary narrative, which is that there is a G20 country, at the top table of world affairs, one would imagine keen to be responsible on the world stage, with a population of about 40 million people, seeking to put an economic blockade in place – in tangible terms the ambition of that is to impoverish an isolated community with about 3,000 people."
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