Post by Focus on Feb 25, 2013 16:45:24 GMT
New US Secretary of State John Kerry today refused to back Britain's stance in the battle with Argentina over the future of the Falklands, after starting his first overseas trip in London.
Mr Kerry pointedly refused to support next month's referendum among Falklanders on whether they want to remain British.
The issue is thought to have been raised by Foreign Secretary William Hague after Mr Kerry held talks in Downing Street with David Cameron.
US Secretary of State John Kerry appeared alongside British Foreign Secretary William Hague at a press conference today, where he insisted America's position on the Falkands was unchanged
At a press conference in the Foreign Office, standing alongside Mr Hague, Mr Kerry insisted the US position on the Falklands had not changed.
'We continue to urge a peaceful resolution of this critical issue. Let me be very clear about our position with respect to the Falklands, which I believe is clear.
'First of all, I’m not going to comment, nor is the President, on a referendum that has yet to take place, hasn’t taken place.
'Our position on the Falklands has not changed. The United States recognizes de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the question of parties’ sovereignty claims thereto.
'We support co-operation between UK and Argentina on practical matters.'
Diplomats in London believe it is a major coup that John Kerry chose Britain for his first overseas trip as US Secretary of State to hold talks with PM David Cameron
The two men discusses Syria, the Middle East Peace process and US-EU trade, but did not raise the prospect of Britain leaving the European Union
Mr Cameron became the first world leader to meet with Mr Kerry since his appointment, at the start of an 11-day tour of Europe and the Middle East.
At a meeting in Downing Street the two men discussed a new transatlantic trade deal between the US and the EU, before touching on Syria, the Arab Spring and the Middle East Peace Process.
Mr Kerry’s decision to use his first foreign trip since replacing Hillary Clinton to visit London is being seen as significant. Mrs Clinton traveled first to Asia after taking office.
Mr Kerry said: 'This is no accident that this is the first stop of my trip as Secretary of State.'
Officials said the decision to start the trip in Europe starting ‘underscores the degree to which we have common interests and values with our key European partners, the degree to which we work so closely together in meeting the enormous challenges that we both face around the world’.
But it comes after transatlantic relations were strained when President Barack Obama and other senior American figures warned against Britain leaving the European Union.
Downing Street said that Mr Kerry did not raise the issue of Britain's possible exit from the European Union as a result of the referendum promised by Mr Cameron during the next Parliament.
But ahead of the talks, a senior state department official said: ‘The President himself addressed it in saying that we support a strong UK voice in a strong European Union.
‘And if asked, the Secretary will repeat that position. It’s our interest, and we’ve made that clear.’
After leaving London, Mr Kerry will visit Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar
Mr Kerry waved to the media as he passed between meetings on the first day of an 11-day tour of Europe and the Middle East
In the run-up to Mr Cameron's announcement of his referendum plan last month, the White House had signalled its preference from Britain to remain part of a strong EU.
But the spokesman said that the European focus of today's discussions was the free trade agreement and the potential for using the UK-chaired meeting of the G8 group of rich states in Northern Ireland in June to take the process forward.
Mr Cameron and Mr Kerry ‘reiterated their shared determination to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran’, said the spokesman.
After leaving Downing Street, Mr Kerry walked to the Foreign Office with Foreign Secretary William Hague
Both men were hoping for progress on the issue at the meeting of the P5+1 group - made up of the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany - with representatives of the Tehran regime in Almaty, Kazakhstan, this week.
Mr Cameron and Mr Kerry agreed on ‘the importance of restarting a viable peace process’ in the Middle East, said the spokesman. And he said they discussed ‘the challenges posed by fragile states around the world and how the US and UK will continue to work together on these issues’.
They also discussed the situations in Egypt and Libya following the fall of long-standing regimes as a result of the Arab Spring.
But the issue of the Falklands was not raised, said Mr Cameron's official spokesman. It is understood that the UK's row with Argentina over the future of the islands is likely to be discussed when Mr Kerry meets Foreign Secretary William Hague later today.
A US official said: ‘If we’re asked about the Falklands, we would underscore we’ve said before, which is that we recognize the de facto British administration of the islands and we don’t take a position on sovereignty.’
Mr Kerry, who took office as Secretary of State at the start of this month
following the resignation of Hillary Clinton, is also due to visit Berlin, Paris, Rome, Ankara, Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha during the current tour.
Mr Hague described the relationship between the UK and the US as an 'indispensable alliance' and said today’s talks were 'detailed and very thorough'.
'Top of our agenda was the Middle East, including the importance we both attach to ending the Israeli/Palestinian conflict,' said Mr Hague.
'I welcome the focus that he has brought to bear on this issue since his appointment. There is no more urgent foreign policy priority in 2013 than restarting negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
'The region and the world can’t afford the current dangerous impasse in the peace process. If we don’t make progress very soon, then the two-state solution could become impossible to achieve.
'There is a burning need for the international community to revive the peace process in efforts led by the United States and supported by European, Arab and other nations. My promise to Secretary Kerry today was that the United Kingdom will make every effort to mobilize the European Union and Arab states behind decisive moves for peace' -- Mmmm - strange? ...