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Argentina's Vice President on Jerusalem: in the UN, everything by consensus

Vice-President Gabriela Michetti of Argentina addresses the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, at the United Nations headquarters.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
An exclusive interview with Argentina's Vice President Gabriela Michetti

The relationship between Israel and Argentina has markedly improved since President Mauricio Macri took office in December 2015. His ascendancy ushered in sweeping changes following 12 consecutive years in which the country was ruled by husband and wife Nestor and Cristina Kirchner.

During that period, the country not only aligned itself with leftist populist states in the region, but also with Israel’s main foe: the Islamic Republic of Iran. Cristina Kirchner, president from late 2007 to 2015, is now facing arrest over alleged role in covering up Iranian responsibility for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in which 85 people died.

Argentina’s Vice President Gabriela Michetti, made an official visit to Israel in January. In an exclusive interview with i24NEWS’ Spanish-language program News24, Macri’s number two explained how the new administration in Buenos Aires has refreshed the country’s foreign policy, particularly its stance toward Israel.

“The fact that Argentina decided to open up and resume relations with the different countries in the world, identifying those countries which could become strategic partners for growth is something very significant,” Michetti, a former senator, argued.

“In the past, the country was closed and held relations which nations which I don’t think can be described as being friendly with the rest of the world, as in the case of Venezuela, or Iran, Cuba”, Michetti said.

AP Photo/ HO Argentina- Vice Presidency

Argentina’s foreign policy was put to test again by US President Donald Trump’s decision on December 6 to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, and the subsequent vote at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly rejecting the US initiative by 128-9.

Argentina abstained and the number two in the chain of command detailed the reasons behind that stance.

“What we’ve decided is to continue in the line of historical Argentine foreign policy which is: in the United Nations, all by consensus”, Michetti told Ñews24.

“Hopefully we reach a consensus that really Israel and the people of Israel are basically happy with the situation, but also avoid new problems. When will that be? We do not know,” she added.

“That is why I think this position of saying ‘let's hope that this can be resolved between all of us instead of making unilateral solutions that later end up probably generating more problems’”, Michetti said.

According to Michetti, Argentina does not intend to generate more controversy in its foreign alliances: “Quite the opposite. We try to find solutions that are shared”.

Two to tango

During the past three years a swelling number of high ranking Argentinian officials visited Israel, and vice versa.

However crowning jewel of these visits came in September 2017, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an official visit to Argentina, the first ever for a serving Israeli head of government.

Earlier on 2016, Netanyahu and Macri met at the World Economic Forum in Davos; a meeting that was hailed as a new start in the diplomatic relations between both countries.

A number of bilateral agreements were reportedly signed, and the meeting was followed by Defense Minister Patricia Bullrich on November 2016, and Justice Minister German Garavano in Israel, one year later.

Charly DIAZ AZCUE (ARGENTINA'S SENATE/AFP/File)

Netanyahu’s visit had practical results on the ground. Accompanying Argentina’s abstention in the UN vote against Trump’s decision on Jerusalem -- even if less favorable than voting against the resolution -- was also a statement saying the country won’t automatically align itself with an open anti-Israel agenda, and is ready to absorb the political price from local public opinion, largely hostile towards Israel.

On the other hand, Argentina missed an opportunity to lead the process across the Latin American nations and make history by recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. That vacuum was filled by Honduras and Guatemala.

“Argentina has made a coherent and consistent decision with its positions in general and not only with Israel in the United Nations,” Michetti argued.

“This means when you have to define situations that are controversial, that have controversy, what you have to do is to seek consensus and try to make sure that decisions are made by all, convinced that we are on a path that is closer to peace than to violence, to mutual benefit”, she concluded.

The full interview will air this Friday on Ñews24, the Spanish-language program of i24NEWS at 22:05 (Israel), 15:05 (EST).

Damian Pachter is Ñews24's co-anchor and i24NEWS's Latin America correspondent. Follow him on Twitter.

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