In an interview with the Buenos Aires Herald, Argentine Defence Minister Arturo Puricelli demands that Falklands’ sovereignty talks must be started before any other issues can be discussed.
Arturo Puricelli, the Argentine Defence Minister, slammed the United Kingdom on Sunday by insisting that they “should stop militarizing the South Atlantic”. In an interview for the Buenos Aires Herald, he added “London would have to sit down and talk to Argentina, but first of all it would have to start with the sovereignty of the Islands and their occupation by force.” Puricelli had been asked what worried him more, the relationship between Iran and Bolivia or the British presence on the Islands to which he replied “The British military presence on Malvinas, Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is a cause of grave concern to us”.
A British military garrison of nearly 5000 men was established after the 1982 conflict but has since reduced to less than 2000 and includes Army, Navy and Air Force personnel as well as civilian contractors. Member of the Falkland Islands’ Legislative Assembly, Dick Sawle retorted ”the claim that the UK is somehow militarising the South Atlantic is complete nonsense of course!”
Moving on Mr Puricelli implied that talks on any subject would have to begin with the question of sovereignty. When asked if this included bilateral agreements such as fishing, which had now stalled after Argentina withdrew its support, he replied “It was Britain which interrupted those conversations and exchange of information — they did not do their bit.” He was referring to a decision by the Islanders in 2006 to grant fishing concessions around the Islands over a 25-year period, rather than by annual renewal, a move which greatly angered Argentina and has sparked many outbursts and protests since.
In reply Mr Sawle stated that “demanding talks on sovereignty before anything else in fact just states their current default position,” and on the fishing dispute, “it is interesting to note that in fact they broke off all fishery talks on stock management and conservation…we have always been ready to participate in all matters of mutual interest.
Although not asked directly about the “economic blockade” of the Islands imposed by pressuring neighbouring countries to refuse use of ports by shipping supplying the Islands, Mr Puricelli did state that “what we are not going to do is to make British occupation of the islands any easier.” He continued, “We want the Islanders to establish mainland links with Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, which is the province to which they belong.”
Arturio Puricelli, who had an unsuccessful political career between 1999 and 2005 when he fought for election on an anti-Kirchner manifesto, once declared that he harboured “irreconcilable differences” with Nestor Kirchner.
In 2006, with a great deal of surprise and controversy, he was selected to head the state-owned Fabricaciones Militares, the nation's largest defence contractor, by the very man he so vehemently opposed. He was appointed Defence minister in December 2010 taking over from Nilda Garré.
Neil Russell, SeAled PR - Stanley