Britain, Argentina joust over Falklands 30 years after war

Agence France-Presse
President Cristina Kirchner pressed Argentina's claim to the Falkland Islands at the United Nations on Thursday, June 14, as Buenos Aires and Britain traded warnings and barbs on the 30th anniversary of their war over the disputed territory

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – President Cristina Kirchner pressed Argentina’s claim to the Falkland Islands at the United Nations on Thursday, June 14, as Buenos Aires and Britain traded warnings and barbs on the 30th anniversary of their war over the disputed territory.

Kirchner’s demand that London at least open talks came at the end of a day of rival commemorations to mark the end of Britain’s military operation to end a 74-day Argentine occupation of the South Atlantic islands.

In London, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to defend the Falklands against new “aggression” and said there could be no sovereignty negotiations.

Veterans of the 1982 war conflict also gathered in the Falklands capital Port Stanley to remember the 255 British soldiers killed. More than 650 Argentines also died in the conflict for the islands known as the Malvinas in Spanish.

While blasting Britain’s “colonialist” legacy and berating the country for abusing its position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Kirchner said, “We do not want more deaths, we do not want more wars.”

“We are not asking anyone to say yes, the Malvinas belong to Argentina. We are asking no more, no less than to sit down and talk,” she told the UN decolonization committee, a relatively low-level body overwhelmed by the presence of the president and more than 90 of her ministers and officials.

Kirchner sat stony-faced through speeches by two Falklands legislators who complained about Argentina’s “bullying” tactics.

One of them, Mike Summers, said Argentina wanted to “air-brush us out of existence, to satisfy its unjustified lust for our land.”

Summers tried to hand over a letter offering talks with the Falklands own government. But he could not get close to Kirchner at the end of the meeting and Argentina’s Foreign Minister Hector Timerman refused to accept the letter.

Kirchner also held talks with UN leader Ban Ki-moon who “reiterated that his good offices to resolve this dispute remain available if the parties are willing to engage,” said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Britain has insisted however that it will not discuss sovereignty as long as the 3,000 people on the wind-swept islands want to remain under the British flag.

Cameron vowed that Britain would fight off any “aggression from over the water” in his London tribute to the war dead.

“When it comes to the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, there will be absolutely no negotiation,” said Cameron, whose Downing Street residence raised the Falklands flag to mark the anniversary.

“This is not some game of global monopoly, with nations passing a territory between them. It’s about the islanders determining their own future.”

Tensions over the Falklands have risen again in recent months with British diplomats saying that the nationalist Kirchner has raised the temperature because of domestic troubles.

“It is disappointing that the level of rhetoric from the Argentinian government has increased over the Falklands in recent months,” said Britain’s UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant.

“We ascribe that frankly to a change of politics in Argentina rather than any other change that has happened,” Lyall Grant told reporters after the UN debate.

“Britain has good relations with Argentina on almost all issues” except the Falklands, the envoy added.

The islands remain a national cause in Argentina however.

Last week, Argentina declared British oil exploration off the Falklands “illegal” and threatened legal action against five companies for pursuing activities around the islands. Analysts believe valuable oil reserves may lie off the Falklands. – Mariano Rolando, Agence France-Presse