The sovereignty issue should be left aside and talks should concentrate on the business opportunities offered by the oil industry in the Falkland Islands, said lawmaker Dick Sawle during an interview with AP in Brazil where he is on a week long visit of business and political contacts.
“We’re in the midst of developing our oil industry in the Islands and there are many opportunities for companies from Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, wherever they come from and we are open to business. The Falklands government favours the idea of an open doors policy and that is why we are here in Brazil, our legal system and our taxing system are transparent and very clear”, said Sawle one on the eight elected members of the Falklands Legislative Assembly.
MLA Sawle said that British and United States companies are involved in hydrocarbons exploration in the Falklands and looking forward to future production and “I repeat this is an opportunity for Brazil and other Latinamerica countries that have a long experience and expertise in the oil industry”.
Companies from the region could offer logistics services to the oil companies operating in the Falklands, where there are proven reserves of 300 million barrels of crude, pointed out MLA Sawle.
Admitting the Falklands are well aware that countries from the region support the Argentine sovereignty claim over the Malvinas Islands, MLA Sawle insisted it was important to leave aside the dispute and concentrate on what is good for everybody, which is business.
“I see this as a possibility if we leave the sovereignty issue aside and think in the opportunities. We can then talk, because we want good relations with all the world, particularly with countries of the region; we don’t want conflicts, but we believe that the sovereignty issue must be left aside if we are to advance”, underlined Sawle
In Rio do Janeiro, Brazil’s main oil state, Sawle held talks with oil industry representatives which he expects to continue when he arrives in Sao Paulo, later in the week. In Brasilia the lawmaker had meetings with academics and university students, plus other informal contacts to explain the Falklands sovereignty position in relation to the United Kingdom and Argentina.
“Self determination is the way for reaching a solution to the controversy but unfortunately Argentina refuses to listen to us in the Falklands, they simply ignore us and don’t want us to be the third leg of any negotiations process together with the UK”, said Sawle.
Last March the Falklands held a referendum with a 92% turnout and 98% support to remain a British Overseas Territory, which “is a clear manifestation of self determination and the commitment of the over 3.000 inhabitants which make up the Falklands’ people”.
MLA Sawle explained that relations with Argentina have never been so strained as with the Kirchner presidential couple, Nestor and Cristina, beginning in 2003.
“Before the Kirchners we had talks with Buenos Aires, particularly in 1999 under the administration of former president Carlos Menem when we had agreements on fisheries, oil exploration, the Argentine cemetery in the Falklands and communications” revealed Sawle.
Of these only the cemetery, converted into a memorial and communications stand: once a month the weekly Lan Chile flight from Punta Arenas to Stanley calls in Rio Gallegos. The Darwin memorial holds the graves of Argentine combatants who died during the conflict of 1982 when Argentine military invaded the Falklands.
“If there is a change of government in Argentina we hope it is a bit more reasonable, so that we can talk about fisheries and bio-mass in Argentine and Falklands waters, because if we don’t control volume catches and agree on conservation, everybody loses. It is common sense to speak about scientific issues of common interest as was in the not so distant past. Nobody is going to get hurt or lose positions talking about conservation”, insisted Sawle.
Fisheries, farming and tourism are the main industries of the Falklands and Sawle told his contacts of Islands companies to sell fish produce in Brazil and invited Brazilians to visit the Falklands. “Thousands of Brazilian cruise visitors have been to the Islands and they have returned marvelled with our Islands, our people and our way of life”.
MLA Sawle ends his Brazil round visiting the state of Rio Grande do Sul, the closest to the Falklands, where he will visit the country’s most important agriculture and livestock show in Esteio, close to Porto Alegre and hold meetings with students from two universities to explain the Falklands people position on sovereignty and regional relations.
The Falklands lawmaker next stop is neighbouring Uruguay where he has been announced in the first next of September.