British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Tuesday he has warned South American nations not to collude with Argentina’s ban on allowing ships from the Falkland Islands to dock in their ports.
Britain has ruled the Falklands, 460km east of Argentina’s coast, for more than 180 years. However, Argentina also claims sovereignty, losing a brief war over the islands in 1982. Offshore oil exploration in the area has encouraged new waves of nationalism on both sides.
Last month, Argentina persuaded Brazil, Uruguay and Chile to join a Mercosur trade group resolution to turn away any ship flying the Falklands’ flag, which shows a sheep and a ship along with the UK’s red, white and blue Union flag.
Hague called the port ban illegal and urged others not to join Argentina’s attempt “to intimidate an innocent civilian population through economic pressure.” Meanwhile, he sought assurances that trade and commercial links between the Falklands and South America would be maintained.
“We have had productive and honest discussions with Uruguay, Chile and Brazil,” Hague said. “All three countries have said that they have no intention of participating in an economic blockade of the Falkland Islands and that all Falklands-related commercial shipping will continue to enjoy access to their ports, in accordance with domestic and international law, if they are flying the Red Ensign or another national flag when docked.”
An initial Associated Press brief about Hague’s statement mistakenly suggested that Hague was claiming to have persuaded Argentina’s neighbors to back off their Mercosur commitment. That prompted Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman to call his counterparts and obtain their assurances that they would not allow any ships to dock while flying “the illegal flag of the Malvinas Islands,” as Argentina calls the archipelago.