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Chapter Twenty FINALDIPLOMACY In Buenos Aires the San Carlos landing represented a significant - if not necessarily decisive - change in the strategic position in favour of Britain. The forces unloaded by the British would probably be sufficient to fight off any counter-attack that Menendez would be able to mount. The worst Argentine suspicions of British intentions were thus confirmed : all of the previous week's diplomatic activity had been another exercise in procrastination - to provide cover for the final preparations for the landing. The diplomatic options had been now reduced to yet another Peruvian initiative, launched as the Secretary-General's mediation was coming to an end, and to a possible referral ofthe dispute to the Security Council of the UN. The Second Peruvian Initiative The new Peruvian initiative was based on the UN Secretary-General's aide-memoire. President Belaunde suggested that the Secretary-General immediately put into effect those items upon which the two sides agreed - a cease-fire, mutual withdrawal of forces, the interim administration and that he, or the contact group, organize and preside over negotiations to search for a permanent solution and to supervise immediately the withdrawal from the region of both armed forces. The proposal had been received on 20 May at 18.30 hours, prior to 342 Final Diplomacy news of the landing, and provoked a positive response from the Junta. When Costa Mendez spoke to Belaunde he encouraged him to pass on the message that 'we support Perez de Cuellar and that we do not want his mission finished tonight and that we are studying alternatives for negotiation'. Belaunde concluded that he hadfinally'understood the British position: they want to appear like the good boys and present you like the baddies'. The initiative was formally accepted by Argentina on 21 May. Not surprisingly the British Government refused to comment; in the circumstances it saw no value in a cease-fire and was to be hostile to all such suggestions from this point on. When Ambassador Wallace went to see President Belaunde on the morning of 21 May he displayed scant interest, insisting on an Argentine withdrawal in line with Resolution 502. The withdrawal could not be mutual as British forces were not going to relinquish their foothold on the Island; even less could they reasonably be expected to return 8,000 miles to Britain. When Belaunde reported this reaction late that night to Galtieri, the Argentine President promisedflexibility:'we are willing to go to the Continent , to Bahia Blanca or even withdraw to Buenos Aires if necessary and they could go to Ascension.' On 23 May Belaunde published a communique which announced both his initiative and the Argentine acceptance. The British condition of an immediate Argentine withdrawal , he stated, 'risked human lives unnecessarily by providing a delay in a peaceful solution to the crisis'. Argentina's Allies In practice the United States was the focal point for much of the diplomacy of the following week. It was widely recognized that now that its forces had landed there were few incentives for the British Government to do anything other than retake the Islands on its own terms without further negotiation. The only possible source of pressure upon London was the United States, and this (from the American perspective) had the unfortunate consequence of highlighting the already exposed American position. 343 Combat American anxiety at this exposure was enhanced by the trend of Argentine diplomacy over this period. Mobilization of Latin American support around Argentina had been gathering strength. In the UN debate virtually every member of the Latin American group had supported the Argentine position, with Venezuela and Panama expressing themselves with particular force. The most obvious way for Argentina to bring this support to bear was through another meeting of the Rio Treaty. With this in mind Costa Mendez had travelled to the United States on the night of 21 May. It should at least be possible to obtain regional support for a cease-fire, mutual withdrawal and negotiations over the future of the Islands. The prospect of another Rio meeting was more worrisome to the United States than to Britain. The Americans lobbied Latin American governments against such a move. In addition, they sought to mend fences with Argentina, and President Reagan sent a message of congratulations to General Galtieri for Argentine National Day, 25 May. In it he suggested that 'it has never been more important to reaffirm the common interests and values that unite Argentina and the US and...


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