No-one is saying who called who, but yesterday’s telephone conversation between Portuguese president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and president-elect of the United States Donald Trump lasted 12-minutes, during which the future of Lajes airforce base in the Azores was reportedly discussed.
As national media has long explained, the economy of the island of Terceira is massively dependent on the Americans’ use of Lajes, and if – as the country intimated (click here) – it means to pull out bigtime, an alternative use for the base will need to be found.
Last October, PM António Costa set the cat among the pigeons by suggesting Portugal could lease the island to the Chinese (click here).
At the time, the story was seen as turning the tables on America, goading them into rethinking a withdrawal.
Thus this may well have been the context in which President Marcelo talked to Donald Trump.
For now, all that is being revealed is that the conversation was instigated by outgoing ambassador Robert Sherman, who returns to the US when Donald Trump takes over on January 20.
President Marcelo was one of the first heads of state to congratulate Donald Trump on his election victory in December, and has alluded to the “magnificent friendship” between the two countries on a number of occasions since, saying “no matter which direction the world takes”, the two will always be connected by the Atlantic Ocean, with the Azores will therefore always represent the “first door to Europe”.
According to the official website of the Portuguese presidency, Lajes was just one of the subjects covered during the call. Others included the “importance of the Portuguese community and luso-descendants in the United States, as well as the Portuguese presence in the world, and the weight of Portuguese-speaking countries”.
Donald Trump is described as having shown “a lot of consideration for Portugal and the Portuguese – referring to various friends among these – as well as the intention of a fruitful relationship between States and People in the exercise of their duties”.