By Jan Cheek (*) (*) - On Friday 4th, Ms Cecilia Nahón, Argentina Ambassador to the United States, wrote an article for the Huffington Post, titled 'Malvinas: All Argentina Is Saying Is Give Dialogue A Chance.'
In the article, Ambassador Nahón described how old political disputes in the United States were being solved as a result of 'a willingness to engage in dialogue and diplomatic negotiations.' Amb. Nahón went on to detail how the Question of the Falkland Islands was an '182-year old sovereignty dispute with the United Kingdom', in reference to the reassertion of British sovereignty of the Islands in 1833. Argentina refers to this as the 'usurpation' of the Islands, and claims that the entire Argentina population was forcibly ejected from the Islands, although records within the Argentine National Archives show this was not the case.
The Government of Argentina states regularly that its claim to the Falkland Islands runs continuously from the 1820s. It does not. The Argentine claim to Spanish succession, which was never accepted by the United Kingdom, was ended by the 'Convention of Peace', ratified in 1850, and for 34 years Argentina was silent over the Falklands, during which time several Argentine leaders stated that Argentina had no dispute with Britain. There was a brief flurry of letters in the 1880s but after that, the 'claim' to the Islands was dropped by the Government of Argentina until the 1930s. José María Ruda reignited the discussion over the so-called 'claim' to the Islands in 1965 with his impassioned (and inaccurate) speech to the United Nations Subcommittee III.
The Falkland Islands Government has previously worked alongside the Government of Argentina, with joint accords on a range of economic issues. One by one, and largely under a Kirchner regime, the Government of Argentina has reneged on these agreements. In the decade of Kirchnerite government, Argentina has walked away from every chance of dialogue on the Falklands.
Amb. Nahón accuses Britain of 'militarization' of the South Atlantic, but the military presence in the Islands is a level appropriate to deter aggression by Argentina, and is proportionate to the perceived threat. The Government of Argentine, whilst denying any military designs on the Islands, has spent the past year attempting to broker deals for fighter aircraft from Spain, Sweden, Israel, Russia and China to bolster its own forces, yet bitterly complains about infrastructure upgrades (including the construction of a new school) in the Falklands.
The right of self-determination of all peoples in enshrined in the United Nations Charter, and safeguards the inalienable right to determine one's own political future, and any allegiances therein. We, the people of the Falkland Islands, have a right to a say in our own political future, and the United Kingdom has assured us that there can be no discussions on sovereignty with Argentina unless we, the people of the Falkland Islands, so wish. And we expressed our wish in our historic referendum in March 2013. This was internationally overseen and saw 99.8% of those who voted freely choosing to retain our current relationship with the UK.
Amb. Nahón claimed that the UK refuses to enter negotiations about issues other than sovereignty. But it is untrue. The UK has simply said that Islanders need to be involved in any discussions, and we have extended numerous invitations to talk to the Government of Argentina. These go unacknowledged. In February 2013 then- British Foreign Secretary Hague agreed to meet with the Foreign Minister of Argentina in London. Timerman refused to attend because my colleague and I, as elected members of the Falkland Islands Government, were present. The empty chair at that meeting speaks volumes about the sincerity of Argentina's call for dialogue.
Amb. Nahón claims to seek dialogue with the United Kingdom to 'negotiate' over the Falkland Islands, yet the Argentine Constitution (revised in 1994) plainly states 'the recovery of said territories (Falkland Islands, South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands) and the full exercise of sovereignty (...) constitutes a permanent and unrelinquishable goal of the Argentine people'. Constitutionally, then, Argentina cannot, and will not, settle for anything less than full control of the Falklands, and therefore any conversation about the Islands isn't a 'negotiation' at all - when Argentina says 'dialogue' it really means 'deliver the Falklands to us.'
The Falkland Islands Government has made it perfectly clear that we are prepared to sit down and talk with Argentina about matters of mutual interest, yet it is Argentina who consistently ignores our invitations whilst crying out for conversation.
Argentina's disingenuous call for dialogue is in reality a call to colonise our country, seize our natural resources and deny our right to self-determination.
(*) Chair of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands
(*) The Huffington Post