BUENOS AIRES — Argentine President Mauricio Macri said on Monday he is determined to settle with all his country's foreign creditors and insisted Argentina is returning to the international fold.
In an interview in his office at the Casa Rosada presidential palace, Macri said US President Barack Obama's decision to visit Argentina in March shows the South American nation is mending its diplomatic ties after years of tension.
He said Argentina was determined to reach a settlement with all of Argentina's foreign creditors despite resistance from major US hedge funds to his latest offer.
"We feel we have made an enormous effort," he said.
"We have been serious and coherent in our measures to end the dispute."
Several groups of investors have accepted Argentina's offer to pay $6.5 billion of the total $9.0 billion owed to them to settle a 15-year dispute.
But major hedge funds NML Capital and Aurelius rejected the offer, pushing for full repayment.
A US-educated businessman, Macri, 57, took the helm of Latin America's third-biggest economy in December.
His leftist predecessor Cristina Kirchner had refused to pay the hedge funds, branding them "vultures".
In the lawsuit they launched in a US court, the creditors are known as "holdouts."
A US judge hearing the case last week gave Argentina partial respite in its court battle with the investors.
He agreed to lift an injunction that had blocked it from paying off other bondholders until it settled with the holdouts.
Argentina hopes that will enable it to start borrowing again on capital markets so it can start clearing all its debts.
"Our aim is to reach an agreement with all the funds. We have been able to settle with a majority," he said. "The judge noted that. I am still optimistic. The negotiations continue."
A pro-business conservative, Macri has made it a priority to mend relations with foreign powers and investors.
He said Obama's decision to visit Argentina shows the country is mending its diplomatic ties after years of combative relations under his leftist predecessor Cristina Kirchner.
"It signifies a recognition of a change that has taken place in Argentina, towards good relations with the world, relations which must be mature, intelligent and mutually beneficial," Macri said.
Italian premier Matteo Renzi visited Argentina last week and French President Francois Hollande will do so on Wednesday.
Macri plans to host Hollande in the stadium of Argentine football club Boca Juniors, where Macri used to be chairman.
Obama visits on March 23 and 24 after a historic trip to Cuba.
"We believe this is really a new beginning and a new era in our relations with Argentina," top Obama foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes said last week.
Obama's visit is expected to increase pressure on the holdout creditors to reach a deal.
His trip is likely to focus on investment in renewable energy, agriculture and tourism, Argentina's foreign minister Susana Malcorra said. — AFP