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ARGENTINA | 24-09-2019 22:41

Macri defends multilateralism before world leaders at UN

President reiterates Malvinas sovereignty demand and calls on members of the international community to tackle ongoing crisis in Venezuela and help Argentina bring perpetrators of AMIA bombing to justice

President Mauricio Macri offered a defence of multilateralism and his government at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, as he delivered what could be his last address as head of state to world leaders.

Following on from predominantly nationalist speeches from Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro and US leader Donald Trump earlier in the day, Macri highlighted Argentina’s return to the international community under his leadership with a tacit criticism of the previous government led by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

"Since I assumed [office], in 2015, we decided to leave behind a stage of confrontation with the world. In the midst of a complex world, we decided to assume the responsibility of making a contribution to multilateralism and the search for consensus," Macri said as he opened his speech.

"In the face of tendencies of fragmentation, I think it is best to move forward with more cooperation, more multilateralism," he added.

 "The world is much more an opportunity than a threat," he concluded.

Macri also referenced Argentina's economic difficulties, assuring the audience that his "priority" was to "bring relief" to Argentines. 

The president reserved his most outspoken section for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, branding the Venezuelan president’s government “a dictatorship” that affects “the stability and governance of the region."

The Juntos por el Cambio leader called on "the international community to use all the tools available to reverse this situation and make Venezuela free again."

He warned that the situation in Venezuela was “very serious,” describing it as an "unprecedented humanitarian crisis." 

Prior to his address, Macri had met with former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, who now serves as the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights. The duo discussed Venezuela at length, officials said.

Speaking prior to the president’s departure for the United States, Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said that Macri would emphasise Argentina’s support for freedom of expression and democracy.

"It will be a balance of this first term of four years, of management in relation to the world, the opening up of our country [to the international community], the defence of freedom and human rights and the commitment to democracy, especially in relation to the case of Venezuela," Faurie told the Radio Mitre radio station, speaking from New York.

Malvinas claim, AMIA bombing

Macri also reiterated Argentina’s sovereignty claim over the disputed Malvinas (Falkland) Islands during his speech and spoke of the need to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires.

The AMIA bombing, which took place on July 18, 1994, killed at least 85 people, with another 300 injured.

"Twenty-five years after the most brutal terrorist attack on our territory, we again urge the Islamic Republic of Iran to cooperate with the Argentine judicial authorities to advance the investigation of the attack on the AMIA [Jewish community centre," he declared.

"And we reiterate our request for cooperation from friendly countries, to prevent the accused from being received or protected by diplomatic immunity," he added, a reference to Tehran’s continued shielding of the alleged perpetrators, as identified by Argentine investigators.

No-one has been tried or convicted for the bombing, while the judge who led the case investigating the bombing has been imprisoned for using state money to bribe false witnesses, in order to accuse police officers of being part of a local connection to the attack.

Including a reference to the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Macri said that Argentina “wants all the people involved in the attacks to appear before Argentine courts, so they can be tried and eventually convicted.

"We continue to fight impunity," he told the room.

Reiterating Argentina’s sovereignty claim over the Malvinas Islands, a fact enshrined in the Constitution, the president once again urged the United Kingdom to commit to finding a "peaceful and definitive" solution to the conflict.

IMF meeting

During his brief stay in the United States – which lasted around 15 hours in total – the president also made a surprise appearance at a meeting between Argentine officials and representatives from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Departing the five-star Langham hotel on Tuesday morning, where he is staying while in New York, Macri told reporters that he would “listen to the Fund's vision of what is happening."

Finance Minister Hernán Lacunza and Central Bank chief Guido Sandleris arrived in the United States earlier in the week for a series of crucial meetings with IMF officials, as the duo seek to persuade the institution to disburse the next instalment of its US$57-billion loan deal with Buenos Aires.

Last week, reports emerged that IMF officials were unlikely to approve the next US$5.4-billion tranche of its credit line with Argentina without knowing the economic policy plans of the government that will take over in December, according to people familiar with the situation.

Macri suffered a stinging defeat in a primary election at the hands of populist challenger Alberto Fernández, which once again whipped up market volatility in the recession-hit nation and undermined the currency.

After the meeting, Lipton issued a statement, in which he praised the government’s actions in the wake of the president’s loss in last month’s PASOs.

“I had a constructive meeting with President Mauricio Macri, Finance Minister Hernán Lacunza and Central Bank Governor Guido Sandleris today. We discussed the efforts that Argentina has made under this program and their positive impacts,” Lipton said.

“The recent measures by the authorities have helped calm the markets. I expressed our intention to continue to engage with the authorities, and help them respond to the difficult situation and the challenging times ahead,” he added.

“Our dialogue and close collaboration with the Argentine authorities will continue with technical meetings expected to take place later this week and before the IMF annual meetings.”

Lacunza and Sandleris, who will return to Buenos Aires on Friday, have a working lunch with IMF officials scheduled for tomorrow, at which they will be joined by the IMF's mission team for Argentina, Roberto Cardarelli.

President Macri is due to arrive back in the capital this morning, at around 7.30am, with campaign events scheduled for later in the day.

 – TIMES/AFP/NA

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