Britain on Wednesday accused Argentina of “colonialism” in its claim to the Falkland Islands, as the 30th anniversary of their conflict over the British-ruled territory approaches.
A day after Britain’s National Security Council discussed the Falklands’ defenses, British Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament that London was committed to protecting the South Atlantic islands and added that people there should be allowed to decide their own nationality.
Cameron said he was determined that the islands’ defenses were in order and that islanders’ wishes were paramount.
“We support the Falkland islanders’ right to self-determination,” he said. “What the Argentinians have been saying recently I would argue is actually far more like -colonialism because these people want to remain British and the Argentinians want them to do something else.”
In June last year, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez described Britain as a “crass colonial power in decline” for refusing to hold talks over the islands, known as Las Malvinas in Spanish. Argentine officials were quick to hit back over Cameron’s remarks on Wednesday.
“It’s totally offensive,” Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo said, while Foreign Minister Hector Timerman described Britain as “a synonym for colonialism.”
“Evidently at a time when only scraps of colonialism linger, Great Britain ... has decided to rewrite history,” Timerman told the state news agency.
London has controlled the islands, about 480km off the -Argentine coast, since 1833. Its two-month war with Argentina in 1982 resulted in the deaths of 255 British and about 650 Argentine soldiers.
The British government says it will only agree to sovereignty talks if the territory’s 3,000 residents ask it to, and that the islanders want to remain British.
Tensions have risen in recent years over offshore oil exploration and have gained steam before the April anniversary of the conflict, as well as the planned tour of duty on the islands by Britain’s Prince William, a Royal Air Force helicopter pilot, later this year.
Last month, the South American trading bloc Mercosur — including associate member Chile — agreed that vessels sailing under a Falklands Islands flag would be banned from docking at any of its ports as an act of solidarity with Argentina.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, visiting Mercosur’s economic powerhouse Brazil, discussed the Falklands in Brasilia on Wednesday, but the Brazilian government said it backed Argentina in the dispute and would apply the shipping ban.
Hague said differences over the Falklands did not prevent a “vastly productive relationship and growing friendship” with Brazil, whose economy is now the size of Britain’s.
“He knows that Brazil, and all Latin American and Caribbean countries, support Argentine sovereignty over the Falklands,” Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota told reporters.
“We have to abide by Mercosur’s resolutions,” Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim said after meeting with Hague.
Besides, “Argentina is our number one strategic ally,” he added.