Falkland Islands: it’s a three-side debate; Argentina must recognize Islanders right to decide their future
UK conditioned a possible re-launching of agreements on hydrocarbons and fisheries in the South Atlantic to Argentina accepting ‘there will be no sovereignty negotiations’ regarding the Malvinas Islands and called for the Argentine government to respect the wishes of the Falkland Islanders.
Hugo Swire minister of state at the Foreign Office for Latinamerican affairs was interviewed via e-mail by Argentina’s Diarios y Noticias news agency, courtesy of the British embassy in Buenos Aires.
The British official rejected arguments that the British presence in the Falklands was because of oil and its strategic closeness to Antarctica, and ratified that UK has “no doubts” about “its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and surrounding maritime space, or the right of the Islanders to decide their own future”.
Swire said that an agreement on oil and fisheries in the South Atlantic would also “benefit the Argentine economy which certainly would be something positive at this moment”.
Follows the interview as it was published in the Argentine media.
DyN.- At what point are relations between the UK and Argentina? How would you describe them?
HS.- “We want to have a full and friendly relation as neighbours of the South Atlantic and G20 members. Some aspects of our relation are positive but they have the potential of being even more productive, including at G20, sustainable development, science and technology, combating nuclear proliferation and climate change. We are willing to take advantage of this potential and we wish Argentina collaborates with us”.
DyN.- On the Malvinas, in Argentina we believe that London more than supporting the self determination of the 3.000 residents in the Islands, it is trying to control hydrocarbons in the zone and have the archipelago as a strategic base to jump to Antarctica. What have you to say?
HS.- “To quote what our ambassador in Argentina (John Freeman) said recently, we’re talking about people not oil. An overwhelming 99.8% of Islanders voted in a referendum last March to remain British. What else can they do to express their opinion and right to self-determination? As long as the Islanders wish to continue being British, they will have 100% support and protection from the UK.
All the resources from the Falklands territorial waters belong to the Islanders, not to the UK, and we fully support their right to develop those resources for their own economic benefit. As to Antarctica, the UK is proud of its long history of scientific activities, protection of the environment and peaceful cooperation in that continent. We are fully committed and comply with the international governance framework established by the Antarctic Treaty System which has all territorial claims on hold. We recently authorized an Argentine vessel on a scientific research cruise in waters surrounding South Georgia, so that shows we take our responsibilities seriously.
DyN.- For London “sovereignty is out of discussion” but the conflict has 180 years; the Islands are in the Argentine platform, 13.000 kilometres away from Great Britain. How to advance?
HS.- The path to follow is for Argentina to respect the wishes of the Islanders clearly expressed in the result of the recent referendum. Our position is clear and has not changed. We have no doubts about our sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and the surrounding maritime space or on the Islanders right to decide their own future. It is the right to self determination enshrined in the UN Charter and the International Pact on Political and Civil Rights. There are three sides in this debate, and the Islanders can’t be simply marginalized from history, their human rights must be respected. As such there can’t be negotiations on the Islands sovereignty unless and until the Islanders so wish it.
DyN.- In this framework, can the agreements on hydrocarbons and fisheries of the nineties be re-launched? On what does it depend?
HS.- Yes, we would be delighted to return to the kind of cooperation that existed in the framework of the agreements on fisheries and hydrocarbons exploration in the nineties. In fact, the government of the Islands offered to discuss such cooperation but the Argentine government refused because it refuses to recognize the right of the Islanders to participate in that debate.
To resume cooperation Argentina would have to accept that there will be no negotiations on sovereignty and that the Islanders are included, and will have a voice in any discussion on the natural resources in their territorial waters. That would also benefit the Argentine economy, which certainly would be something positive at this moment.