Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández on Friday relayed Latin America's concern to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron about the impact of the war in Ukraine on global food prices and energy security.
"I bring the concern of the continent" with me, said Fernández, explaining that the fall-out from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “has generated negative consequences throughout the world and also in our Latin America."
Speaking as the two shared a brief press conference in front of the Élysée Palace, the Frente de Todos leader described his French host as "a leader of Europe who will be able to take on board the concerns" of Latin America and the Caribbean regarding the war in Ukraine.
In his position as pro-tempore president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) bloc, Fernández said the region cannot "continue to put at risk, after the pandemic, food security and energy security," again underlining concerns over the impact of economic sanctions levelled against Moscow.
He called for a ceasefire in Ukraine “as soon as possible.”
"We have come to make ourselves available to see what we can do from Latin America to help the world regain peace," Fernández told his French counterpart.
For his part, Macron advocated "responding collectively to the consequences of this war, especially in agricultural markets," as he warned of "the risk of a major food crisis, especially in the Middle East and Africa."
The French president, who described Argentina as “an important actor in this stormy scenario” also called for closer ties between Latin America and Europe and for a new impetus to be given to student exchanges, cultural and economic cooperation, as well as the fight against climate change.
"This joint action includes a strong mobilisation in favour of the climate emergency and the preservation of biodiversity, an essential point in the structuring of our trade," he added.
Fernández is the first president to have been received at the Élysée by Macron since the French leader won re-election on May 7 in a second round run-off, defeating far-right hopeful Marine Le Pen.
The two leaders also exchanged congratulations, with Macron praising Argentina’s recent US$44.5-billion debt restructuring deal with the International Monetary Fund and Fernández hailing recent re-election.
"We talked about it a few days ago with [former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva],” said Fernández, who gifted Macron an artwork by recently deceased Argentine artist Antonio Seguí, who had lived in France since 1963. “We celebrated his electoral success in France, which delivered calm, a lot of calm to the world."
The Peronist leader was clearly delighted to be back in France, describing it as a “great joy” and with Macron, who he described repeatedly as a “friend” and invited to visit Buenos Aires.
"My personal affection for President Macron is well known," he said, hailing the “very long history” and “enormous cultural ties” between the two nations.
Praising France’s respect and promotion of “multiculturalism,” Argentina’s president said his third visit to Paris since taking office was focused on the Ukraine crisis, its impact and “creating a more egalitarian world with an economic model that integrates, not displaces.”
On a less positive note, Macron also addressed the recent day of a French exchange student in Buenos Aires last week, who died from accidents sustained in a road-traffic accident.
"My heartfelt thoughts go out to the family and friends of Lwana Bichet, a young student from Angoulême [in central France], [who was] passionate about Argentina, who died in a tragic accident a few days ago in Buenos Aires," the French head of state said in a statement issued prior to his meeting with Fernández.
In it, Macron vowed to uncover the "truth" about the circumstances surrounding Bichet's death. The 25-year-old, along with two other companions, was run over by a taxi in the Palmero neighbourhood of the Argentine capital after the driver of the vehicle had reportedly suffered a stroke and heart attack.
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Bichet was engaged in a student exchange programme at the private University of San Andrés and had been in Buenos Aires for three months.
End of tour
Fernández’s brief visit in Paris brings to an end his European tour, which also took in stops in Spain and Germany. Pushing Argentina’s agricultural exports and upcoming energy infrastructure projects, he said that Spain could be the entry point for the gas that Argentina intends to sell to Europe in the coming years.
The meeting with Macron was very important for the government, though it did not receive confirmation that it would take place until Tuesday, when Fernández was already in Madrid.
The two leaders have a warm relationship, which was evident in the affectionate greeting that both presidents extended to one other.
Fernández will fly back to Argentin later today after visiting three European countries in four days, arriving in Buenos Aires at around 11pm local time.