On the programme this Tuesday Stacy Bragger talked with the Hon Mr Mike Summers MLA. He reported on discussions held in the USA and the Caribbean to highlight the referendum result. Mr Summers feels it was a productive trip.
MS: We had a wide range of discussions on the first Monday in the States. I stopped in Miami for a while and talked to some cruise companies there about what happened here over the Christmas period and also met with Congressman Mario Dules Belar who has a key interest in the cruise industry. And we had some very good discussions and confirmations there from a couple of cruise vessel companies that they are reinstating their business in the Falklands again next year. I also understood from the congressman how the industry dealt with the situation. I think that was also very helpful.
Sharon Halford carried on to Atlanta to do some interviews with CNN and I was diverted to new York so Sharon also dealt with the announcement of the results of the referendum in Washington on Tuesday and did all the media work there.
Wednesday was a key day in Washington. We had a whole series of meetings with various Congressmen and I think we met nine in all -people in important positions in the Western Hemisphere Committee, people in the Foreign Affairs Committee and others who we knew from other activities. And without exception the congressmen were saying that the referendum changed the game in the Falklands. It changes the way that people should be seeing the Falklands and it brings another clear dynamic to these discussions they were very supportive of our right to self-determination all of them. And I am not sure if you have heard or it has been announced that there is a Motion now on the floor of Congress supporting the right to self-determination for the people of the Falkland Islands. And it remains to be seen how many signatures that collects. It could be open for quite some period of time and we will keep a close eye on that and see whats happening with that, so the discussions with Congress were really important and add a new dimension to our direct relationship with the US Government.
Thursday was a day back in New York where we met with UN Officials at the Under-Secretary level thats one level down from the Secretary General. We had a very good opportunity to present the Falklands case about the referendum, how it went and what the programme was going on from there. They listened very carefully. I think they were generally very supportive of what we had done and what we are doing but naturally much more cautious about what the UN might say as a result of the referendum.
And there is no indication at this stage that the UN as an institution will take any different view in public. But clearly they get the referendum and what it means. The same day we had a very interesting meeting over lunch with a number of UN Ambassadors to the UN, all of whom sit on the C-24. It was a very positive discussion with people clearly understanding what it is we are doing and why we are doing it, appreciating the dynamic that the referendum brings. Some of them are agreeing very strongly with the concept of self-determination for the people of the Falklands. Others perhaps are slightly more cautious.
Even amongst countries that we may not have expected automatic support it was evident. Countries like Indonesia and Iraq expressed quite strong support for the right to self-determination for the people of the Falklands. We also had a good discussion led by the Ambassador from Papua New Guiana about different ways of doing business in the C-24 and I think there is a caucus of countries that sit in the C-24 who are frankly fed up with the way that it operates and that they need to do it differently. It was an interesting discussion that will be very helpful to us and I am looking forward to June.
SB: Regarding the US vision on the issue, do you think thats going to filter through until they change the official policy?
MS: On Friday we went back to Washington and had meetings in the National Security Council and State Department who are the advisors to the US Government on Foreign Policy. The State Department are very supportive and agreed that the referendum changed the dynamic. The State Department tends to be a little more cautious but they at a personal level very much appreciate what we were doing and why we were doing it. And in fact the US position on the Falklands has changed by a degree or so and this is the way its going to go.
We are not expecting a big bang. It has changed by a degree or so in that the statement by the US after the referendum was that it recognised the democratic nature of the referendum and it then went on to refer to negotiations between all parties. Thats different because previous statements had referred to both parties.
So it provides the opportunity for different interpretation of the US position. On the one hand we have heard of Argentina for going to the US and thanking them for supporting the opposition on the Falklands actually its rather different than that. And the US wont certainly at the present time come out and express open support for the people of the Falkland Islands and the right to self-determination I think the couple of degrees of change have been in our direction. So thats entirely satisfactory.
SB: some of the articles in the media have criticised the US for not backing its main ally, Britain. Do you think the increase of pressure on the US will have any change on this effect?
MS: I think all governments respond to pressure and the US probably doesnt feel much pressure on this issue to be honest. But I think the action of the Congressmen is important because that begins to build a democratic base for pressure in the US. If you talk to people, whether they are democrat or republican they will say to you that in all likelihood, if you went to a referendum in the United States a 99.8% would support the right to self-determination because thats the way Americans are and the way they think. And its inconceivable to mist individuals that you wouldnt support the right to self-determination. So I think what is happening in Congress is important and will begin to build a little bit of pressure.
Also the meetings we had with those people are important. They see the faces, they see the people, they see we exist and they hear arguments about not having to support the UK over Argentina over the UK or the UK over Argentina but follow the fundamental democratic principle and support the people of the Falkland Islands.
We are keen not to make this a party political issue in the United States. And one of the dangers of criticisms of the US for not supporting the UK is that it is being used for party political purposes and we wish to avoid that but I think there is pressure on the US, not only from outside sources but also in their minds saying that it must be rationalised somehow. And I think it all just takes a bit of time.
SB: I believe you then moved on to the Caribbean for discussions.
MS: Sharon left us from New York and she went on to Antigua, St Lucia and Granada. I went along with Teslin Barkman to Jamaica and Guiana. Jamaica was quite interesting. We had some useful meetings there and people get it. They understand what we are doing. People change to the dynamic and they all confirm there is a change to the dynamic of these discussions confirm to us they will put pressure on Argentina in multi-lateral meetings not to try and use more aggressive language, not to push for more aggressive resolutions on the Falklands.
Bur we are unlikely to see an overt change to Jamaica Government policy on the Falklands. They are part of a region that is under pressure because of Venezuelan oil and other things to conform to certain ways of doing things. I think the change we see from there will come from the background rather than up front.
We went to Guyana because its the home of the Secretariat of CARICOM, which is a union of a large number of Caribbean countries. And the possibility there is to try to get the likes of CARICOM and the Organisation of East Caribbean States, which is in St Lucia to take a more collective view on self-determination in the Falklands and give some of these other countries a bit of cover.
It was quite a positive meeting at CARICOM but I am not overly hopeful that they will change their philosophy overnight. I think its something that you have to keep working at.
And we met members of the Government of Guyana and the opposition. The opposition were very helpful. But we met several people from the Foreign Affairs committee in Guyana and they were very positive about the referendum and the results of it.
So I think the overall message from our visit and I think Ian Hansen, who has been away, has a similar theme is that people clearly do understand why we held the referendum, appreciate the results of it and very much appreciate us coming out to deliver it and talking to them about it. And I think without exception they agree the dynamic in the discussion and what we do from here on in is going to be the key, I think as to how this thing turns out.
SB: Just returning to the United Nations it has been reported in the last couple of days about Mr Timerman travelling to New York to meet with Ban Ki Moon and also the Chair of the C-24 Committee, so do you think they are coming in from the back foot because of the referendum?
MS: I think they are struggling to know how to deal with it. I think it is inevitable that he would go to the UN. We thought perhaps he might have gone last week or the week before. This week, after we had been, it is inevitable he would try to do this but I think the arguments that we have about not being an implanted population and not being a colony and about Argentina wanting to colonise the Falklands and all those sorts of things are pretty powerful and pretty well understood and simply going there and repeating a number of slogans that have a limited base in fact will have limited effect.
He will go, he will no doubt make a statement and We and/or the British Government will make counter-statements but I dont think it will make that much difference. I guess its inevitable he would go but there we are.
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