By Cecilia Nahón (*) (**) - Over the last few months the United States has reached two historic agreements that have dominated media headlines and the local political debate: the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba after more than 50 years and, more recently, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed by the US, China, Russia, France, United Kingdom and Germany, along with the European Union, with the Islamic Republic of Iran about the latter's nuclear program
The Government of Argentina has steadfastly welcomed these negotiating processes, reaffirming its unwavering commitment to peaceful settlement of international disputes and its profound belief in dialogue and diplomatic negotiations within the United Nations (UN) framework as the best tools to reach effective and long-lasting solutions.
Both agreements present substantial differences and stem from unique circumstances. Yet, there is one common element among them that should be highlighted: a willingness to engage in dialogue and diplomatic negotiations to solve decades-old disputes. In both cases, words, not arms, broke the deadlock.
Dialogue is exactly what Argentina is asking for to solve the Question of the Malvinas Islands, a 182-year old sovereignty dispute with the United Kingdom over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. Located just 187 nautical miles off the Patagonian coast, Malvinas are deeply ingrained in Argentina's society. All Argentines without distinction feel with similar intensity a sense of dispossession regarding this part of our national territory. This has been so since 1833, when the United Kingdom invaded the islands expelling the Argentine population and authorities and implanting its own instead.
Although in the United States it is often exclusively associated to its most tragic episode--the 1982 conflict--the Question of the Malvinas Islands is not only a truly national cause but a regional and global issue that demands dialogue and negotiation. Argentina is not alone in its endeavor for dialogue over Malvinas. The international community has repeatedly expressed its strong support to Argentina's position. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the adoption of Resolution 2065 by the UN General Assembly, the first of its kind to recognize the existence of the sovereignty dispute and to call upon its sole two parties, the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom, to reach a settlement by means of negotiations. Since then, more than forty UN resolutions have followed suit to no avail.
In stark contrast with Argentina's permanent call for dialogue, the United Kingdom has ignored all appeals made by the international community to resume negotiations and, instead, relies on a belligerent attitude that reminds us of anachronistic colonialism. The militarization of the South Atlantic--currently encompassing military exercises, the launching of missiles in the area and a growing military budget--has been strongly condemned by Latin America, a peaceful region free of nuclear weapons.
Notwithstanding that, it is the United Kingdom which frequently and unfairly accuses Argentina of threatening Malvinas. Perhaps a convenient stratagem to justify the unjustifiable: a military budget and military presence against a non-existent enemy.
Curiously, the United Kingdom held negotiations with the military dictatorship that had illegally seized power in Argentina--and that ultimately dragged the country into the 1982 war--but has systematically refused dialogue and negotiation since the advent of democracy in our country. Further exacerbating an unjust situation, the United Kingdom insists on carrying out unilateral activities in the disputed area, such as the illegal exploration and exploitation of renewable and non-renewable natural resources.
Argentina is determined to recover the full exercise of sovereignty over the islands peacefully, in accordance with international law. This resolve is the reflection of Argentina's vocation for peace and dialogue in all fronts. Today, Argentina is a vibrant democracy that has actively promoted an internationally-acknowledged human rights policy, pursues nuclear non-proliferation and constitutes an example of religious and ethnic coexistence, in times when these issues are at the center of international conflicts.
Pursuant to the resolutions of the UN and the Organization of American States (OAS), among many other international organizations, Argentina reaffirms once again its readiness to resume bilateral negotiations with the United Kingdom to reach a definitive resolution to the sovereignty dispute.
The milestone agreements recently reached by the US, leaving aside decades of mistrust, should be a source of inspiration for the United Kingdom to come to the table and join this spirit of dialogue regarding the Question of the Malvinas Islands. As President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has said in several occasions, if Cuba and the US can engage in dialogue, Argentina and the United Kingdom should be able to do so too: we cannot live in a civilized world and systematically reject dialogue.
(*) Cecilia Nahón, Ambassador of Argentina to the United States of America
(**) Published in the Huffington Post