UN British ambassador warned Argentina on Friday that Britain would “robustly” defend the Falkland Islands if necessary, but added that his country remained open to bilateral talks with Buenos Aires on any issue except the Islands' sovereignty.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant was speaking to reporters after Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the president of the UN Security Council to ask for help in stopping what he said was Britain's militarization of the South Atlantic.
We are not looking to increase the war of words, but clearly if there is an attempt to take advantage of the 30th anniversary of the Falklands war by Argentina, then we will obviously defend our position and defend it robustly Lyall Grant said.
The British envoy's comments came a day after British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to defend the Islands properly.
Tensions have risen before the 30th anniversary of the Falklands conflict this year. Oil exploration by British companies off the islands has raised the stakes.
Lyall Grant denied militarizing the region and said Britain had a purely defensive military posture for the Islands. He neither confirmed nor denied reports a nuclear-armed British submarine is lurking around the Falklands.
We do not comment on the disposition of nuclear weapons, submarines, et cetera, he said. But it is well known that ... as part of our overall defensive posture, there are submarines on patrol all around the world at any time. So it's not a question of anything new in what he (Timerman) is suggesting, Lyall Grant added.
Security Council action on Argentina's complaint is very unlikely given Britain's veto on the 15-nation panel.
Minister Timerman said he welcomed Ban's offer to mediate in the dispute.
Argentina agrees that the secretary-general should begin conversations with both countries so that we can sit down at a table ... to resolve this conflict in a peaceful way, he said.
Lyall Grant said Britain was open to bilateral talks with Argentina and there was no need for third-party mediation. He said it was Buenos Aires, not London that was preventing talks aimed at defusing the tensions between the two nations.
We have always been open to dialogue with Argentina. ... We had a dialogue with Argentina and they broke it off, he said, adding that we are not going to discuss sovereignty.
Lyall Grant said one of the problems in restarting talks with Buenos Aires was a 1994 amendment to Argentina's constitution requiring that the government seek sovereignty over the Islands.
We have made clear that we are not prepared to go into talks with the precondition that has been set in the Argentine constitution and discuss sovereignty over the heads of the people of the Falkland Islands,” he said.