Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne pledged UK respect for the results of the Falkland Islands referendum to be held next year, and called on all governments who prize democracy and human rights to do likewise.
Only the Falkland Islands people can determine how they wish to be governed. So I very much support the referendum initiative by the Falkland Islands Government”, said the FCO minister speaking from the Falklands capital, Stanley where he arrived on Monday for a five-day visit including attending the main ceremony marking the end of the Falklands conflict, June 14.
He added that “I believe the referendum, a truly significant moment, will give the Falkland Islands people the opportunity to send a clear message – not just to Argentina, but to the whole of the international community – that the Islanders, and they alone, are masters of their fate”.
FCO Minister Browne pointed out that in the next few months the Falklands will give their definitive verdict on their political status and “the British Government will respect their decision, in line with the principles of the United Nations Charter. And I call on all governments who prize democracy and human rights to do likewise”.
However Browne who is the first FCO minister to visit the Falklands since 2008 cautioned that whilst it is for the Islanders to choose, “let me be clear: the British government greatly values the links between the UK and the Falkland Islands. We believe these should continue and deepen, long into the future. And if this proves to be the will of the Falkland Islands people, then we in the UK will not just respect it, but will continue actively to defend this act of self-determination from those who seek to challenge it.
Browne said it was a privilege and a pleasure to be with the Falkland Islands people as they commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of their liberation and paid tribute to the sacrifices made by the British armed forces in the 1982 conflict which were significant; “we will never forget them”.
But he insisted that the British Government believed then, as today, that “the protection of the Falkland Islanders’ political liberty – of their right to determine their own future – is a principle worth defending”.
The minister on Tuesday was scheduled to visit Fox Bay for a chat on rural development and later a presentation by the Islands Chamber of Commerce.
On Wednesday, Browne will visit the Community school in Stanley and attend a formal reception at Government House. The following day he will participate in the ‘Liberation Day’ service and parade, organized by the Falklands’ government.
June 14 marks the end of the South Atlantic conflict and in the Falklands it is commemorated as “Liberation Day”, when the Argentine troops that invaded the Islands on 2 April 1982, were defeated and ousted by the British Task Force sent to recover the archipelago.