Photo via AFP

And he’s done it again. At a time when the Malvinas Islands has been the focus of the news for the better part of a week, President Mauricio Macri made a statement that could have led to bilateral tensions with the U.K. at a time when he’s trying to boost relations with London.

What happened? After a very brief encounter with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, President Mauricio Macri jumped the gun and went straight to the media to say that the two countries would start negotiating Argentina’s sovereignty claim over the Malvinas, a very sensitive subject that the administration has not been handling too delicately of late.

Today, the British government directly contradicted Macri. “The issue of sovereignty … was never discussed in the informal meeting that May and Macri had in New York,” a Foreign Office source told La Nación.

That was not what Macri said yesterday.

“During lunch yes, I greeted Theresa May […] and I told her I was ready to begin an open dialogue, which obviously includes the issues of the Malvinas Islands sovereignty,” Macri had told Argentine media. And her reply, according to Macri? “Yes, we should begin talking.”

That was it. The exchange was very short and “very much informal”: when did May say that they would start discussing the sovereignty claim? If she had, it would have surely been a scandal in London as the British government has long made clear they would not discuss sovereignty without the presence of the islanders.

It was up to Argentina’s Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra to clarify the situation. “This might not amount to anything […] we could progress on certain issues but not on others or it may take years. This is [just] a sign of willingness to dialogue.”

The minister then went on to essentially say her boss likely exaggerated things: “Of course Prime Minister May said that they would meet but it’s not like she outlined a road map or said what the next steps will be […] I think she was being courteous about the idea of a meeting […] but if I’m totally honest, I don’t think she meant ‘I agree to bilateral talks and that the sovereignty claim will be the first item on the agenda’.” The British media could have had a field day with this but so far at least, has been surprisingly quite muted on the issue.

This morning, Macri didn’t give up, saying May had indeed agreed to talk about sovereignty “albeit not in an official [bilateral] meeting.” However, he did lower his expectations: “The important thing that it does show is a good predisposition and good intentions. The official agenda will be arranged in time and the dialogue […] will take years, but what’s important is to get started.”

Let’s leave aside for now that’s the logic that got the government into hot water last week for assuming that certain issues on the Malvinas could be discussed separately from the sovereignty claim (Spoiler: they can’t.)

For now, Macri would do well to heed the popular proverb: “a fish dies from its open mouth.”

“Macri bumped into Theresa May in the hallway and is now saying that we’ve already recovered the Malvinas.”