Argentina Slams UK Refusal to Regard Falklands Dispute as Still ‘Pending Negotiation & Resolution’
10:21 GMT 02.04.2022 (Updated: 11:18 GMT 06.08.2022)
© AP Photo / Victor R. CaivanoSoldiers stand next to a map of the Falkland Islands
© AP Photo / Victor R. Caivano
UK Foreign Minister Liz Truss said in February that the United Kingdom "completely" rejects any questions over its sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, which are “part of the British family.”
British-Argentine relations will never be able to evolve further as long as the UK refuses to engage in discussions about the future sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, said Argentina’s Foreign Minister, Santiago Cafiero.
On the 40th anniversary of the Falklands war, he called for an improvement of bilateral rotations, writing in The Guardian to deplore the fact that Britain acts as though the dispute has been settled.
The sovereign status of the Falkland Islands - historically controlled by the British - has remained an issue that has sourced UK-Argentine relations.
The archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean is a self-governing British Overseas Territory, which previously witnessed settlement by other nations, including Argentina.
Buenos Aires claims ownership of the territory, and in April 1982 the former military government led by Leopoldo Galtieri sent troops to reclaim the disputed islands that Argentina calls Islas Malvinas, located about 300 miles east of the Argentinian coast.
However, the UK was victorious, defeating Argentina after a two-month-long conflict.
Buenos Aires has never abandoned its claim to the archipelago, with even right-wing former President Mauricio Macri, who said in 2016 he wanted a “new kind of relationship” with London over the Falklands, saying later that Argentinian sovereignty over the islands is “a legitimate and irrevocable claim, which unites all Argentines beyond our differences.”
Cafiero, speaking on behalf of the Argentine coalition government, said it was “incomprehensible” that the UK’s treatment of his nation resembled that meted out to a country breaching basic human rights norms.
“We believe that no outcome of any war can resolve a dispute recognised by the international community. This would set a dangerous precedent. The 1982 conflict did not alter the nature of the dispute between both countries, which is still pending negotiation and resolution,” he wrote.
The foreign secretary also pointed out that before the 1982 events, there had been at least 16 years of negotiations over the substance of the sovereignty of the islands. Pretending that the dispute does not exist or that it does not create obstacles in our bilateral relationship is “naive”, he emphasised.
According to Santiago Cafiero, “the two governments share fundamental values and a vision of a rules-based world order. And yet, in the South Atlantic agenda, we behave as if the conflict had taken place just yesterday.”
Contemporary Argentina, argued the Foreign Minister, does not pose a threat to any other country, while its pursuit of a historical sovereignty claim, as laid down in the national constitution, is conditional on it being pursued peacefully.
“Despite this, the UK maintains a major military base in the South Atlantic, carries out periodic military exercises in the disputed area and maintains restrictions on the sale of dual-use military materials to Argentina,” wrote Santiago Cafiero.
The official wondered why there was still no response from the UK to his government’s proposals, such as the re-establishment of regular flights between the Falklands and Argentina.
“More flights mean more trade, more tourism and more dialogue, as we have had in the past,” he said.
Another issue that Cafiero addressed was progress made by veterans, islanders and the International Committee of the Red Cross to help identify the bodies of most of the unknown Argentine soldiers who fell during the 10-weeks of conflict.
“We have also made great progress over the last 40 years in humanitarian matters. We were able to identify the remains of more than 120 Argentine ex-combatants and provide an answer to their families, after so many years of uncertainty.”
Falkland Islands ‘Sticking Point’
The Falklands war in total resulted in the death of 649 Argentinian soldiers, 255 British servicemen and three Falkland Islanders. Since the defeat, Argentina has pursued various diplomatic efforts towards its goal. These were led by then-president Néstor Kirchner starting in 2003, and then from 2007 by his wife, Cristina Kirchner.
Throughout that period, initiatives were undertaken such as a ban on ships flying the Falklands Islands flag from entering Argentine ports. Furthermore, Argentina’s Congress amended a Hydrocarbons Law introducing criminal definitions and punishments for those engaging in any type of hydrocarbon exploration, extraction, transportation and/or storage activities within the Argentine continental shelf without the authorisation of Argentine authorities. At the time, the Falkland Islands government rejected the applicability of this law to its territory and waters.
This February the British government condemned joint statements by Argentina and China regarding sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.
7 February 2022, 13:28 GMT
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss reminded Beijing and Buenos Aires that the Falklands were firmly under the control of the UK.
“We completely reject any questions over sovereignty of the Falklands. The Falklands are part of the British family and we will defend their right to self determination,” Truss said in a post on Twitter after a meeting between Argentine President Alberto Fernandez and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
During the meeting, Fernandez signed up for Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative and recognised China’s claim over Taiwan, while Xi offered support for Argentina’s claim to the Falkland Islands.
A plebiscite on the islands conducted in 2013 revealed a 99.8% desire to remain British. A poll conducted in 2021 by consulting firm Julio Aurelio-Aresco found that 80% of Argentines believe “the country should continue to demand the end of British occupation” of the islands.