No talks on sovereignty, Falklands leaders tell UN

TERRITORIAL DISPUTE::Most of the islands’ residents favor retaining ties to Britain, but Argentina maintains the residents do not have the right to make that decision


Thu, Jun 23, 2011 - Page 7

Leaders of the Falkland Islands charged Argentine officials with stirring up election-year nationalism in the decades-old squabble with Britain over sovereignty of the isolated archipelago.

Falkland Islands lawmakers Dick Sawle and Roger Edwards blamed politics surrounding Argentina’s Oct. 23 presidential election for a recent hardening of the dispute over the British overseas territory.

The clash over the islands flared into a brief war when Argentina’s then-military dictatorship invaded them nearly 30 years ago. Britain still maintains about 1,000 troops on the territory, which is located more than 460km off South America’s coast.

The UN held its annual hearing on Tuesday on the status of the Falkland Islands.

“In the months leading up to the Argentine election we can only expect the rhetoric to increase,” Edwards said.

He and Sawle traveled to the UN for Tuesday’s hearing.

“We are very keen to talk with them about a wide range of issues — fishing, hydrocarbons — but not sovereignty,” Sawle said of Argentine officials.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez leads in the polls and is favored to be re-elected, but a brewing corruption scandal involving the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group close to the presidency, could have political consequences.

The group formed by women whose sons were “disappeared” during the 1976 to 1983 dictatorship has been forced to fire a top executive accused of misusing taxpayer funds meant to build housing for the poor.

Argentine officials say their British counterparts have been the aggressive ones.

British Prime Minister David Cameron last week said the Falkland Islands should remain a British territory and praised the victorious British troops who retook the Falklands from Argentina during the 1982 war.

“As long as the Falkland Islands want to be sovereign British territory, they should remain sovereign British territory — full stop, end of story,” Cameron said in the House of Commons.

Fernandez responded by calling Britain a “crude colonial power in decline.”

Argentina claims the South Atlantic islands, which it refers to as Las Malvinas, and insists on negotiations with Britain over their sovereignty.

Fernandez brought the issue up with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during his recent trip to the South American nation.

Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, testifying before the UN Decolonization Committee on Tuesday, made a new call to Britain for “good faith” negotiations on Falklands sovereignty. The committee itself reiterated its long-standing endorsement of talks.

The islanders consider their territory to be self-governing because it has its own local leaders and laws, and is largely self-financing.

They dispute the UN’s classification of the territory as “non-self-governing” and its inclusion on a list of the last 16 entities in the world requiring decolonization.

Most of the islands’ 3,000 residents strongly favor retaining ties to Britain, but Argentina maintains that the residents do not have the unilateral right to decide what they want the islands to be.