24 Feb 2010

Falklands oil row now moves to New York

Sarah Smith blogs on attempts by the Argentinian Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana to persuade the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to encourage talks over the Falkland Islands.

NEW YORK, USA The dispute over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands moves to New York today. So Channel 4 News are here to cover every step – and hoping to get an interview with the Argentine foreign minister, Jorge Taiana.

He is in New York to meet Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, to encourage talks over the Falklands’ disputed sovereignty. Although I doubt he is very hopeful of success.

Argentina has made it clear that they do not expect this row to escalate into any kind of military action. So for now it is a war of words. An international PR campaign from Argentina who hope to shame Britain into negotiations as a result of international pressure.

So far the Argentineans are doing pretty well at gathering international support for their cause. But there is only so far that words can take them when Britain has the power to veto any serious action the UN might consider

A resolution is set to be tabled in the UN general assembly condemning Britain for allowing the owner of the British rig, Desire Petroleum, to begin drilling. Argentina insists that the UK have broken a UN resolution forbidding unilateral development in disputed waters.

And there was a resolution passed by the Decolonization Committee in 2004 which requested “the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom resume as soon as possible a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Falkland Islands.” But that’s all it does. Urge further negotiation.

Only UN resolutions made by the Security Council are binding. The UN has very little power to intervene without the backing of the Security Council. And in the Security Council the UK can veto all substantive resolutions.

Last year Gordon Brown told the Argentine president Christina Fernandez de Kirchner “there is nothing to discuss” in relation to the Falklands sovereignty. So that would appear to be that.

Argentina does seem to have more international support than Britain. Already this week they secured the backing of the Rio Group of 32 nations – Latin American and Caribbean countries – who fully backed Argentina’s sovereignty claim to the Malvinas

What is of more diplomatic significance is that President Lula da Silva of Brazil has weighed in personally. He has attacked the UN for failing to take action over the disputed sovereignty of the islands, asking what possible geographical, political or economic explanation there can be for “England” (sic) to be in the Malvinas.

He says he thinks the UN won’t take stronger action against the UK because of Britain’s seat on the Security Council, saying “Could it be because the UK is a permanent member of the UN’s Security Council where they can do everything and the others nothing? It is not possible that Argentina is not the owner while England is, despite being 14,000km away.”

Of course Da Silva has been waging a long campaign for Brazil to get its own permanent seat on the Security Council – which may have something to with his intervention.

A lot of the politics of this dispute are for internal consumption not international. Ms Kirchner has been frequently accused of stirring up this dispute to distract attention from her own political woes inside Argentina. And she would not be the first female premier to use the Falkland Islands for domestic political advantage.