In a robust re-affirmation of British sovereignty of the Falklands Islands and continuing military defence of the Islanders' security, the British Foreign Office Minister responsible for South American issues, Mr John Battle, MP, said Britain's 21st Century partnership with the Islands for progress and prosperity must be founded on Falklanders deciding their own future, self-determination.
In his keynote speech opening the Falklands Islands Government Forum on its future (on July 12), Mr Battle said "Self-determination is one of the best and most popular ideas of the twentieth century". The 1976 implementation of the International Human Rights Covenants has invested self-determination with the "force of international law as a fundamental, collective human right.....people in Britain's Overseas territories must experience the greatest possible control over their lives".
Coming only a day after the annual United Nations De-Colonisation Committee's debate and vote in favour of Argentina's request for talkson the Falkland Islands, it could not have been a more timely nor more effective rebuff of Argentina and its sovereignty claim to the Islands.
In his audience of about 130 businessmen, politicians, academics and journalists were the two Falklands Legislative Councillors -- Sharon Halford and Richard Cockwell -- who had just flown back from arguing the Falklands case in the UN Committee. They found the Minister's words infinitely encouraging.
Garrison and Air Force Flights Guarantee.
Mr Battle said the UK's "most important responsibilities to the Falkland Islands are defence and foreign affairs. We are committed unequivocally to ensuring the security of the Falkland Islands". He gave a guarantee that Britain would maintain its tri-service garrison there, now numbering 1,650 personnel, without counting the naval crews of the Guardship, a support vessel, and the offshore patrol ship. He also gave an assurance that the Royal Air Force would continue to operate the air-bridge from the United Kingdom.
In foreign affairs, the Minister said, the UK "represents and promotes Falklands interests wherever they are affected in the world". This might be with other countries, in the United Nations, or, he added "where our sovereignty over the Islands is challenged".
The Minister had high praise for the Falkland Islanders for what he called their "highest standards of probity, law and order, good government and observance of international commitments". With the Falklands, he said, we get all this. The Falkland Islands also have "a proud record in the exercise of democracy". The Legi