Argentine president-elect picks U.N. insider as his top diplomat

by Reuters
Tuesday, 24 November 2015 23:28 GMT

By Hugh Bronstein and Louis Charbonneau

BUENOS AIRES/UNITED NATIONS, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Argentine President-elect Mauricio Macri named U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief adviser as his future foreign minister, signaling a sharp break from the diplomacy of outgoing leader Cristina Fernandez.

Macri said on Tuesday that Susana Malcorra will be his top foreign representative after his Dec. 10 inauguration.

U.N. diplomats and officials described Malcorra as the second-most powerful person in the United Nations system. Ban relies on her on matters ranging from the war in Syria to diplomatic minefields such as the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

"She has vast and detailed knowledge of the agenda that moves the world," Macri said in a statement.

Malcorra will succeed Fernandez's Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, known on the international stage for his appeals over the Falkland Islands and campaign against bondholders, who he calls "vultures" for suing Argentina over defaulted sovereign debt.

"Argentina's foreign policy under Fernandez was mostly domestically oriented, benefiting from a 'rally round the flag' effect," said Buenos Aires-based political analyst Ignacio Labaqui "Macri's first announcements signal a clear change."

Fernandez, for example, is an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who Macri says should be suspended from the Mercosur trade bloc over his jailing of political opponents.

A major plank of Fernandez's foreign policy has been her failed effort to open talks with Great Britain over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, which are close to Argentina in the South Atlantic but governed by the British.

Macri, the business-friendly mayor of Buenos Aires who vows to retract Fernandez's protectionist trade controls, won Sunday's run-off vote against Fernandez ally Daniel Scioli. His election was hailed by Venezuela's opposition as a blow against leftists across Latin America.

Malcorra was born in Rosario, which is also hometown to revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara and soccer phenomenon Lionel Messi. She has been Ban's chief of staff since 2012.

"Ms. Malcorra has been by my side during one of the busiest and most-turbulent periods in the history of the United Nations," Ban said in a statement. "Throughout, I have treasured her advice, admired her dedication and benefited from her leadership."

Prior to her appointment as Ban's chief-of-staff, Malcorra was U.N. under-secretary-general for field support, making her one of a small group of the most important peace keeping officials. (Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations; Editing by Alan Crosby)

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