Britain will protect the people of the disputed Falkland Islands for as long as they want to remain British citizens, Defence Secretary Liam Fox said on Wednesday speaking at the annual conference of the ruling Conservative Party.
Fox also paid tribute to Margaret Thatcher who led Britain during a 10-week war after Argentina invaded the South Atlantic islands in 1982.
Next year is the 30th anniversary of the victory for self-determination in the Falklands, Fox told delegates.
A victory made possible by the resolve another Conservative prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. And we will continue to guarantee the security of the Falklands, added Fox, a darling of the right of the party.
Argentina, with the support of Latin American countries and United Nations resolutions continues to reiterate its claim to sovereignty over the Falklands and other South Atlantic Islands demanding the resumption of discussions for a peaceful settlement of the dispute.
However diplomatic tensions over the Falklands have increased in recent years over offshore oil exploration and particularly this year when Argentina is holding presidential and congressional elections.
British oil group Rockhopper Exploration Plc last month unveiled plans for a 2 billion dollars investment in the Falklands, seeking to transform the remote territory into a major oil production centre.
Since the Kirchner couple were elected to office in 2003, 2007 and most probably again this month, they have pursued a policy of isolating the Falklands by limiting air charters, rejecting fisheries and oil agreements, demanding all vessels sailing to the Islands check with the Argentine Coast Guard, banning companies doing business on both sides of the South Atlantic and the latest was a warning by President Cristina Kirchner before the UN General Assembly threatening to cut the only air link with the continent.
Argentina insists UK must abide by UN and other regional organizations resolutions to renew sovereignty discussions and end unilateral initiatives such as a reviewed fisheries policy and the round of oil exploration.
Nevertheless the UK policy has been to call for closer ties with Argentina (co-member of G20, among other institutions), a statement Fox reiterated in his speech to the Tory conference.
This is not the 1980s. We are now working towards healthier relations with the Argentines, Fox said.
But one thing is unchanged: for as long as the people of the Falklands choose to, they are, and always will be, British, he added