3 Jan 2013

Falkland Islands should be returned, Argentina tells UK

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner calls on Britain to relinquish control of the Falklands Islands in an open letter copied to the UN secretary general. Falkland Island leaders have rejected her demand.

Stanley in the Falkland Islands, which Argentina says should be wrested from British control (Reuters)

The Argentine president’s letter says that Argetina was forcibly stripped of the Malvinas – the Argentinian name for the islands – in a “blatant exercise of 19th century colonialism”.

It comes after Britain infuriated Argentina last month by naming a slice of Antarctica, which remains disputed territory, Queen Elizabeth Land.

She urged Mr Cameron to abide by United Nations resolutions which she says back the Argentinian cause.

“One hundred and eighty years ago on the same date, January 3rd, in a blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism, Argentina was forcibly stripped of the Malvinas Islands, which are situated 14,000km (8700 miles) away from London,” she said in the letter, published as an advert in the Guardian.

“The Argentines on the Islands were expelled by the Royal Navy and the United Kingdom subsequently began a population implantation process similar to that applied to other territories under colonial rule.

“Since then, Britain, the colonial power, has refused to return the territories to the Argentine Republic, thus preventing it from restoring its territorial integrity.

“The Question of the Malvinas Islands is also a cause embraced by Latin America and by a vast majority of peoples and governments around the world that reject colonialism.”

However her demands received short shrift from the legislative assembly of the Falkland Islands. One of its members, Dr Barry Elsby, released a statement saying:

“We are not a colony – our relationship with the United Kingdom is by choice. Unlike the government of Argentina, the United Kingdom respects the rights of our people to determine our own affairs, a right that is enshrined in the UN charter and which is ignored by Argentina.”

Rising tensions

The letter is the latest instalment in a lengthy battle between Ms de Kirchner and Mr Cameron, with tensions rising last year during the 30th anniversary of the two countries going to war.

They clashed over the Falklands at the G20 summit in Mexico in June last year. He rejected her demand for negotiations over the sovereignty of the islands, saying that she should respect the result of a referendum next year, when the Falklanders will vote on whether they wish to retain their ties with Britain.

Ms de Kirchner had earlier taken her demands to the United Nations, appearing at the annual meeting of the little-known UN decolonisation committee on the 30th anniversary of Britain’s ousting of an Argentinian invasion force from the Falklands.

Read more: FactCheck Q&A - why are the Falklands British?

She used the occasion to reiterate Argentina’s opposition to any more wars and to criticise the prime minister’s decision to mark the day by flying the Falklands flag over his official 10 Downing Street residence.

When Britain chose to name a part of Antarctica Queen Elizabeth Land, Argentina’s foreign ministry handed a formal protest note to John Freeman, the British ambassador in Buenos Aires. The area makes up around a third of the British Antarctic Territory and is also claimed by Argentina.

‘End to colonialism’

Ms de Kirchner’s letter continued: “In 1960, the United Nations proclaimed the necessity of ‘bringing to an end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations’.

“In 1965, the General Assembly adopted, with no votes against (not even by the United Kingdom), a resolution considering the Malvinas Islands a colonial case and inviting the two countries to negotiate a solution to the sovereignty dispute between them.

“This was followed by many other resolutions to that effect.

“In the name of the Argentine people, I reiterate our invitation for us to abide by the resolutions of the United Nations.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that Falkland Islanders “are British and have chosen to be so”.

“They remain free to choose their own futures, both politically and economically, and have a right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN Charter,” a spokeswoman added.

“This is a fundamental human right for all peoples.

“There are three parties to this debate, not just two as Argentina likes to pretend.

“The islanders can’t just be written out of history.

“As such, there can be no negotiations on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands unless and until such time as the islanders so wish.”