Argentine President Cristina Fernandez demanded on Thursday that Britain start talks with Argentina over the Falkland Islands in a speech at the UN marking the 30th anniversary of the end of their war over the disputed territory.
The two countries held rival commemorations to mark the end of Britain’s military operation to end a 74-day Argentine occupation of the remote South Atlantic islands.
In London, British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to defend the windswept outcrop of land against new “aggression” and said there could be no sovereignty negotiations.
Veterans of the 1982 war conflict 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.
Fernandez went to the UN Decolonization Committee where she blasted Britain’s control of the Falklands as “an affront to the world which we all dream of” and accused Britain of abusing its position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
However, she added: “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 committee, a relatively low-level body overwhelmed by the presence of the president and more than 90 of her ministers and officials.
Fernandez 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 Fernandez at the end of the meeting and Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman refused to accept the letter.
Members of the Falklands delegations followed Argentine officials through the UN trying to hand over the letter.
Fernandez also held talks with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who “reiterated that his good offices to resolve this dispute remain available if the parties are willing to engage,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
Britain has insisted however that it will not discuss sovereignty as long as the 3,000 people on the remote 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,” he added.
Tensions over the Falklands have risen again in recent months with British diplomats saying that the nationalist Fernandez 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,” Britain’s UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said.
“We ascribe that frankly to a change of politics in Argentina rather than any other change that has happened,” Lyall Grant told reporters, adding that relations with Buenos Aires were good on all other issues.