Statement by Argentine Foreign Affairs and Worship before the UN Special Committee on Decolonization, 25 June 2015.
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Members of the Bureau, Heads of Delegation, Members of the Secretariat, ladies and gentlemen, Once more, I have come to this Special Committee on Decolonization in order to reaffirm Argentina’s sovereign rights over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas.
Likewise I come to commemorate and express our gratitude. To commemorate the fact that it is now 50 years since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the first resolution specifically referred to the “Question of the Malvinas Islands.” To express our gratitude, on behalf of the people and Government of Argentina, for the unceasing, determined work of this Special Committee for the cause of Decolonization. A noble task that seeks to realize the vision for a truly free and egalitarian world.
I come also to urge the United Kingdom to comply with the obligations imposed on it by international law as the only counterpart in the sovereignty dispute that exists between Argentina and that country over the said archipelagos and maritime areas.
This dispute dates back to 1833 and is about to be two centuries of existence. In that year the United Kingdom occupied the Malvinas Islands illegally evicting the Argentine legitimate authorities and people residing there, preventing their return and implanting British subjects. It did this eight years after having signed with Argentina the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation of 2 February 1825, at a time when ownership by the Argentine Republic of today’s disputed territories, besides being unquestionable from the point of view of international law, was public, peaceful and uninterrupted from the very beginning of the existence of the Argentine State in its capacity of successor of Spain that had administered these territories since the beginning of its presence in America.
That British usurpation of a part of Argentine soil never translated into a peaceful occupation of those territories. From the moment when that usurpation took place, Argentina has protested permanently and continuously demanding the restitution of that part of its territory at all international forums. The protests were not only from Argentina. Our brother countries in the region also expressed unequivocally in favor of respecting Argentina’s rights immediately after the usurpation, thus accompanying us in claiming the restitution before the United Kingdom.
Resolution 2065 (XX) acknowledged that the question of the Malvinas Islands is a case of colonialism. Yesterday’s British colonialism remains unchanged as regards the Question of the Malvinas Islands. Its essence remains today although the British side seeks to disguise an act of usurpation in the garb of self-determination of peoples. It is hard to imagine a clearer picture of an attempt to misrepresent a political and legal principle of such significance.
The British attempt to apply this principle to the population that it implanted in the Malvinas Islands is diametrically opposed to the goals that the international community established with a view to recognizing the right to self-determination. That attempt would mean that the right to self-determination of peoples, conceived as a tool to put an end to colonialism, would apply as a tool to perpetuate it.
It is for this reason, among others, that two amendments proposed by the United Kingdom in the resolution on this subject were rejected by the General Assembly in 1985, as these sought to evoke the principle of self-determination in the context of the question of the Malvinas Islands.
It is also very serious that British policy of settlers’ implantation is today as much in force as two centuries ago. Evidence of this is that 90% of the 2840 inhabitants of the islands are British citizens or of a British overseas territory, although only 47% of these inhabitants were born in them.
Resolution 2065 (XX) not only recognized the existence of a colonial question and a sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas that was henceforth referred to as the “Question of the Malvinas Islands”. That resolution also urged its only two parties, Argentina and the United Kingdom, to find a peaceful solution as soon as possible, through bilateral negotiations, duly taking into account the provisions and objectives of the Charter of the United Nations and Resolution 1514 (XV) and the interests of the population. This resolution was followed by over forty resolutions adopted subsequently by the General Assembly, in plenary and at the request of the Committee on Decolonization.
Being a party to a sovereignty dispute imposes obligations, Mr. Chairman. Article 2 paragraph 3 of the Charter of the United Nations established that All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered. This is one of the principles that both Argentina and the United Kingdom, in their capacity as founding members of this Organization, deemed essential to structure the international order sought to be built since 1945 and that has the United Kingdom as one of its main actors, as reflected by its capacity of permanent member of the Security Council.
We therefore wonder under what authority the United Kingdom can continue to demand the rest of the States to comply with the principles of the Charter, when there are aspects of its behavior, such as that observed in the Question of the Malvinas Islands that result in a clear denial of those same principles.
This situation is more than surprising when one notices that the United Kingdom and Argentina have already implemented –even jointly- Resolution 2065 (XX), thus recognizing the existence of the sovereignty dispute and the obligation to negotiate which consequently is pending on the two parties to it.
Indeed, pursuant to Resolution 2065 (XX) negotiations were held over some years between the two parties to the dispute, during which both informed the Secretary General. The United Kingdom has acknowledged its obligation to negotiate and nothing that happened ever since the beginning of these negotiations has changed in any way the characteristics of the sovereignty dispute from which that obligation arises.
Since Resolution 2065 (XX) adopted half a century ago up to this resolution that we are considering today in this Committee, there has been a constant appeal to the parties to the dispute to negotiate its solution. The characteristics of the dispute remain the same, although the current British behavior seeks to ignore the obligations imposed on it as a party to this dispute.
Not only does the United Kingdom violate the obligation to negotiate and whose existence it has already acknowledged. The behavior adopted today is exactly the opposite of that required by international law and the international community. Far from making the slightest attempt to resolve the dispute, it does nothing but aggravate it irresponsibly.
In fact, there are several acts through which the British side aggravates the dispute. The permanent increase of its military presence in the South Atlantic; its new attempts to explore and exploit non-renewable natural resources; the exploitation of fishing resources beyond the limits of sustainability, and a campaign permanently oriented to distorting the perception of the population transplanted to the Malvinas Islands on their legal and political situation, are but a few of the attitudes by which the United Kingdom aggravates the situation created by the sovereignty dispute.
It is out of any purpose and proportionality that the United Kingdom has the largest existing military installation to the south of the parallel 50 South and that its naval deployment includes patrolling by atomic submarines capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
This military presence introduces a destabilizing factor that has received the unanimous rejection of all countries in the region, including those on both coasts of the South Atlantic that have decided that it is a zone of peace and cooperation, free of nuclear weapons. Although the United Kingdom seeks to justify an alleged “Argentine threat in its recent announcements on increases in the budget for its illegal military presence in Argentine areas, Argentina will continue to rely on the same diplomacy and multilateralism.
Are the threats to the United Kingdom at 14,000 kilometers away from London and 300 kilometers from the shores of Patagonia? The real challenges for international peace and security will not be found in the South West Atlantic. The real threats are the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction fundamentalisms and growing environmental deterioration, among others.
Mr. Chairman, it is inconceivable that the British continue distorting the way the inhabitants of the Malvinas Islands perceive their own legal and political situation. It does so when it seeks to argue that Argentina is a threat to the population of the islands, as when it attempts to convince that population that it could have a right to self-determination that does not exist, or when it does not educates them about the consequences of inhabiting a territory that is the subject of a sovereignty dispute.
Argentina has given the clearest guarantees that a national legal system may conceive to ensure full respect for the interests and way of life of the inhabitants of the Malvinas Islands. The first transitory provision of the Argentine National Constitution gives such assurances unconditionally.
That law is also accompanied by the widest social consensus in Argentina as to the need and the obligation to respect the interests and way of life of the local population. An example of this is the possibility recently enjoyed by an Argentine citizen born in the Malvinas Islands, Alejandro Betts, who exercised his right to elect the governor of the Province of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and South Atlantic Islands, something he could have never have done if he had remained in the islands tightly controlled by the metropolis and whose highest authority is appointed by the Crown. Also, Alejandro Betts is a candidate to occupy a seat for his home Province -Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and South Atlantic Islands- in the MERCOSUR Parliament.
The only hostility against the population of the Malvinas Islands is that emanating from the British policy aimed at bringing it to ignore its political and legal situation to such an extent to try to convince them that they have some sort of a right to demand the violation of the most basic international standards: those obliging to settle international disputes in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
That is exactly what the United Kingdom does when it argues and refuses to resume negotiations on the sovereignty dispute because the local population of the islands does not wish to. Such behavior -unacceptable in any State but even more so in one seeking leadership in the international arena- attempts to justify that international law can be violated if that is the desire of the population implanted in a territory of disputed sovereignty.
Even in the days during which it negotiated possible solutions to the sovereignty dispute, the United Kingdom was prone to carrying out unilateral acts contrary to any solution of the dispute. On 1st December 1976 the United Nations General Assembly expressly recognized, in the second operative paragraph of Resolution 31/49, the efforts made by Argentina “to facilitate the process of decolonization and to promote the well-being of the population of the islands.
After recognizing that attitude by Argentina, the General Assembly called upon the two parties to the sovereignty dispute, in addition to accelerate negotiations to solve it, to refrain from taking decisions that would imply introducing unilateral modifications in the situation while this dispute has not been resolved.
The situation today has worsened considerably. British unilateral acts have done nothing but increase, putting Argentina on the need to adopt any and all measures allowed by Argentine law and international law to stop the irresponsible campaign that the United Kingdom is developing with a view to exploiting the resources of the territories and maritime areas under dispute.
Mr. Chairman, this obligation not to innovate through unilateral acts is not only reflected in Resolution 31/49. Common sense, applicable rules and jurisprudence of international tribunals clearly indicate that it is unlawful to seek to dispose of natural resources located in areas of contested or controversial sovereignty.
Consequently, in full respect of international law and in exercise of its sovereign rights, Argentina has taken various measures in the field of its domestic law and initiated administrative and criminal proceedings against such activities.
These legal actions have the support of the overwhelming majority of the international community that has had the opportunity to express in this regard. It is not only our partners, who are directly suffering the negative effects of this pillaging of the region, that have made their voices heard in the framework of the MERCOSUR, ALADI and the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE), but also the 132 countries in the Group of 77 and China, which have recognized our right to undertake such actions.
Indeed, in their most recent Ministerial Declaration, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the G77 and China “expressed that the operations carried out by companies not authorized by the Argentine Government in the Malvinas Islands area relating to the exploration of natural resources, especially hydrocarbon resources, were seriously detrimental to the sovereignty rights of the Argentine Republic over its continental shelf and recognized the right of the Argentine Republic to take legal action, with full respect for international law and relevant resolutions, against unauthorized hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activities in the referred area”.
Mr. Chairman, as I mentioned at the outset, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of resolution 2065 (XX). Not one more year should elapse having this dispute unresolved.
Consequently, the Argentine Republic invites the United Kingdom not to continue to deny an existing reality that is obvious: there is a sovereignty dispute and both Governments are called to resume the dialogue that we could maintain in the past to find a solution.
The pronouncements of the international community demanding this change of behavior are permanent and more than eloquent. Last week it was the Organization of American States that addressed this same issue and urged the British side to resume compliance with the obligations imposed on it by law and that the international community demand.
Argentina will continue relying on international law, diplomacy and multilateralism and invites the United Kingdom to commit to the same path and rejoin the family of nations that so much expect of it to put an end to colonialism in all its forms and manifestations.
Thank you very much.