Because it was the first country that installed a permanent base there, the signatory nations of the Antarctic Treaty decided that Buenos Aires would be the permanent headquarters of the Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty, despite the British opposition. The text of the treaty is in the United States.
In an interview with Voices of the World, Ambassador Daniel Filmus, who heads the Malvinas, Antarctica and South Atlantic Secretariat, analyzed the political, economic and geostrategic issues related to that region.
He highlighted the historical support of Russia – confirmed last week by Ambassador Dmitri Feoktistov – questioned the agreement between Argentina and the United Kingdom signed by the Government of Mauricio Macri, known by the name of Foreign Ministers Foradori-Duncan, and analyzed the controversial actions of Uruguay by allowing the supply of fuel to 13 British military aircraft.
– In addition to the case of Uruguay, on February 19, for the first time, a flight of the Brazilian TAM line left the islands, landed in the Argentine province of Cordoba and then continued its journey to San Pablo, Brazil. What will Argentina do about it?
– They are two different themes. The second had to do with what was called the joint statement Foradori-Duncan, that we do not consider it an agreement because the agreements have to go through the National Congress. What the Government of Macri did was to skip to Congress the possibility of agreeing or not on this issue. Surely Congress would have rejected it, so they did this drill that they called joint statement, and therefore does not have the relevance of an agreement.
– What they have in common is that they are sister countries, such as Brazil and Uruguay, which are somehow collaborating with the occupants of the Falkland Islands.
– The Government of Macri asked Brazil for an airline to go to Malvinas, so it cannot be taken as something Brazil has done behind Argentina’s back. That is a case. On the other, it must be said that Buenos Aires allows humanitarian flights to be supplied in neighboring countries. The ambassador to Uruguay, Alberto Iribarne, called attention to these 13 British flights that were reported by Uruguay as “humanitarian”, but that Argentina wants to investigate to see if they really are that or are military flights.
The United Kingdom is an occupying power that has installed the largest military base in the South Atlantic, below the 50th parallel, and violates all international standards. It violates United Nations Standard 3149, which says that neither country can take unilateral actions, such as installing a huge military base in the conflict zone. It also violates agreements linked to the South Atlantic peace zone, signed by 21 African and 3 Latin American countries that have shores in that ocean. That military base is totally illegal and illegitimate. Argentina condemns any military action arising from that base.
– Can Brexit modify the situation?
– Brexit is in process. There is a whole year until the new rules of the relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom are set. In any case, it seems quite clear to one that the commitment of European countries in their support for the United Kingdom becomes more tenuous. The EU recognized Malvinas as an overseas territory of the United Kingdom.
Now we hope that some countries that had some conflict between what they consider colonialism (the British presence in the Falklands) and their membership in the EU, can be expressed more clearly in favor of no more colonies in the 21st century. In the case of Chagos and the decision to send to the International Court of Justice through a consultation, many countries that initially abstained from voting for the UN resolution (which gave the United Kingdom six months to return the Chagos archipelago ) changed their vote.
Many who voted with the United Kingdom abstained and those who abstained voted against. That anti-colonial resolution, which is related to the Falklands, was voted only by six countries favorable to the United Kingdom and 120 against. Which shows that there is an overwhelming majority in the UN that votes against colonial causes.
– Last week there was a very important fact for Argentines. The Russian ambassador to Argentina, Dmitri Feoktistov, said Thursday, February 13, in Tierra del Fuego, that “the hour of colonialism passed and the English must return the Falkland Islands to Argentina.” How does the Government interpret these statements?
– Argentina respects the ambassador, who reaffirms a traditional position of Russia that was the same as when it was the Soviet Union. Moscow always supported Argentina in its claim for sovereignty and for dialogue. The same goes for China and all the countries in the world, except the United Kingdom. Resolution 2065, where the UN recognizes the territorial dispute, had no vote against it. Not even the United Kingdom voted against it, it abstained. China and Russia are two permanent members of the Security Council.
And we are supported by 133 countries that make up the G77 + China, those of the African Union, the Arab Countries, the CELAC, the Non-Aligned. The international community shares the Argentine will to open the dialogue. And a good part also supports the right of Argentina over that territory usurped by the United Kingdom 187 years ago.
– Very recently he was in Ethiopia. What fruits did you bring from that tour?
– We were invited especially for the African Union meeting in Addis Ababa two weeks ago. We have had the opportunity to participate as observers and be with more than 20 foreign ministers and heads of state of the 54 countries that are part of the African Union. There were also Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his pair from Norway. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, and Michelle Bachelet.
The UA has a very strong anticolonial claim. We accompany Mauricio in his claim that the United Kingdom comply with the United Nations resolution for the return of Diego García and Chagos. We had more than 20 interviews. They listen to Argentina and say Malvinas, it is the first association they make. They are countries that lived colonialism in their own flesh. And there are 54 countries that, when voting at the UN, weigh a lot.
– And towards the future?
– In the last four years Argentina lowered the intensity of work for Malvinas. Next month we will be at the G 77 + China meeting in Kampala, Uganda. We are going to present our own declaration by Malvinas that we hope will be accompanied.
They are the bulk of the United Nations: 133 countries, some of the size of China and India. The Ethiopian Foreign Minister with a delegation of businessmen comes to Argentina next week and we will surely strengthen ties. South-South cooperation is essential for Argentina. They are complementary economies.
The food emergency in Africa is huge. There were Argentine experts from INTA (National Institute of Agricultural Technology) collaborating with initiatives and biogenetic development. Argentina has a highly developed direct sowing system that is essential for Africa.
It is a continent that is six hours from here and Argentina has only one flight to Africa. It’s amazing that we don’t have communication even with South Africa. A multipolar world, such as that considered by President Alberto Fernández, is one that requires open and generous relationships and collaboration with all countries. Ethiopia, according to its last census, has 120 million inhabitants.
– You held this secretariat until the end of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s management and, now, four years later she retakes it. How did you find it?
– We can’t find her. One of the first measures taken by former Macri was to degrade the Secretariat. In his inaugural address, he was the first president not to speak about Malvinas. He did not mention it as one of Argentina’s priorities. There was a decrease in the intensity of the claim. This Secretariat also has the theme of Antarctica and the South Atlantic. The new Argentine Continental Platform that was elevated to the UN shows that it is twice the continental part. We have enormous wealth.
To legitimize our claim on the Falklands and Antarctica, we must strengthen the work in the South Atlantic, from the issue of wealth to preservation. We speak of the most important freshwater reservoir of humanity, but also of preservation, because the risk is that the great powers exploit mineral, maritime and biodiversity resources. Argentina is one of the founding countries of the Antarctic Treaty and is concerned with the preservation and future of humanity.
From the Secretariat, the Malvinas issue is central, but with a comprehensive view of the South Atlantic, which has to do with, for example, what we see with the care of mile 201. Argentina owns the base and the water column up to mile 200. Afterwards, it is only the owner of the continental shelf, so that up to mile 200, no foreign vessel can fish.
But we see fishing cities on mile 201 that prey on a resource that has to be of humanity. That predation impacts on the wealth of Argentina, some species rotate, others are exterminated. Part of our job is to take care of the wealth of 44 million Argentines. And not only that the British do not take it, because there are many other countries. We seek to advance in the creation of marine protected areas, which ensure biodiversity and marine species.
– In the Antarctic sector we have litigation with a power such as the United Kingdom and with Chile. How do you plan to approach?
– In Article IV, the Antarctic Treaty safeguards claims of sovereignty. But then, each country makes its own claim. Then he speaks only Antarctica as a space for scientific work. In the future we have a discussion of sovereignty. Argentina, due to its laws, owns a part of Antarctica, but in everyday life it is a joint work among scientists from different countries that generate a lot of knowledge that later serves for the development of medicines, geological, paleontological research biodiversity, because Antarctica is a continent that has unique conditions.
We are now participating in space research in Antarctica, because in very adverse situations, one finds no better space than this to study them on the human body or on food.
– A few days ago it was 18 degrees in Antarctica, something unusual. One thinks of a possible ecological catastrophe. Are they working on that?
– Yes, Argentina is a pioneer in environmental research. We have the Carlini Base dedicated to that type of research. Argentina is also vice president of the commission that takes the global environmental issue in Antarctica and plays a very important role.
Climate change is fundamental, but there is a new impact, which is that of tourism in Antarctica. This year there were more than 70 thousand tourists. It is a good thing in economic terms, because it also passes through Ushuaia. But the impact of the human being is worrying. Argentina is proud to be the country with the longest presence in Antarctica.
– I want to end with good news: a Court in Rio Grande dictated the prosecution without pretrial detention of four military officers accused of torturing the soldiers under their orders during the Falklands War.
– Yes. It’s very important. The Supreme Court had dismissed these types of events and the soldiers had to go to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to denounce this unpunished situation. It was a violation of human rights practiced by the State and as such does not prescribe. There are many testimonies in that regard. It is an action of justice that can cause the truth to be known and the guilty punished.